Biography of Saki (H.H. Munro)

Hector Hugh Munro (also known as H.H. Munro) used the pseudonym 'Saki' to write several well-known short stories that mocked Edwardian English society and customs. Munro was born in Akyab, Burma (now Sittwe) on December 18th 1870 to Charles Augustus Munro and Mary Frances Mercer (Byrne 5). He was the youngest of three children. He had one sister, Ethel, and an older brother, Charles. Shortly after his birth, his mother Mary returned to her home in England to give birth to her fourth child, leaving her other three children in Burma with her husband. While in England, a loose cow charged at Mary while she was walking on a country road. The incident ultimately resulted in her miscarriage and death (Byrne 3). After the death of his wife, Munro’s father, an officer in the Burma Police, decided to send Saki and his siblings to live with their grandmother and aunts in England (Byrne 3).

Munro did not enjoy his stay with his aunts in England who were incredibly strict and overbearing. His works contain frequent references to spinster, aunt characters often cast as antagonists. Munro left England for Burma in 1893 to serve in the Military Police but returned shortly after his departure because he suffered several tropical fevers in Burma (Drake 6). In 1896 Munro worked for The Westminster Gazette writing political satires. His first book, The Rise of the Russian Empire, was published in 1900 and his second, The Westminster Alice, in 1902. During the same time, his short stories began appearing in publications including The Westminster Gazette, The Morning Post, and The Bystander.

Munro worked as a foreign correspondent for The Morning Post in Warsaw, St. Petersburg, and Paris from 1902-1908 (Drake 7). Afterwards he returned to London to write stories and political works. In 1914 Munro falsified his age (he was forty-four at the time) in order to enlist in the army and fight in World War I. He famously died on November 14, 1916 during the battle of Beaumont Hill. Seconds after telling a fellow soldier to “Put that bloody cigarette out,” Munro was shot through the head by an enemy sniper aiming for the lit cigarette (Byrne 3; Drake 7).

Though his works continue to be published, several scholars complain about the dearth of biographical information about Munro. Many attribute this lack to the fact that Munro’s sister, Ethel, destroyed all of his papers in 1955 so that nobody else would be able to add to the biography she was already writing abut her brother (Drake 7). Some speculate that Ethel also wanted to keep hidden facts that would support rumors that her brother was gay (Gibson 3).

Under the pen name ‘Saki’, Munro published 138 short stories, five plays, two novels, and dozens of sketches, political satires, and essays (Gibson 5-6). It is said that his influences included Swift, Carroll, Kipling, Hardy, Gogol, Nietzsche, Darwin, and Gibbon (Gibson 6). Scholars argue that Munro chose the pen name ‘Saki’ in order to write works distinct from the writings he produced as a newspaper correspondent (Gibson 8). However, the distinction became muddied after his death and in present-day most of Saki’s writings are attributed to H.H. Munro, with ‘Saki’ written in parentheses or brackets.


Study Guides on Works by Saki (H.H. Munro)

Arguably the most popular of Saki’s short stories, “The Open Window” first appeared in Beasts and Super Beasts, a collection of short stories published in 1914 just before Munro went to fight in World War I. “The Open Window” is appreciated most...

“Tobermory” was first published in 1909 in The Westminster Gazette. The original version of the story did not include the character Clovis. The story was later revised for book publication and the revised version incorporated Clovis, a character...