The Westminster Alice
Alice certainly was; the Knight was riding rather uncomfortably on a sober-paced horse that was prevented from moving any faster by an elaborate housing of red-tape trappings. “Of course, I see the reason for that,” thought Alice. “If it were to move any quicker the Knight would come off.” But there were a number of obsolete weapons and appliances hanging about the saddle that didn’t seem of the least practical use.
“You see, I had read a book,” the Knight went on in a dreamy far-away tone, “written by someone to prove that warfare under modern conditions was impossible. You may imagine how disturbing that was to a man of my profession. Many men would have thrown up the whole thing and gone home. But I grappled with the situation. You will never guess what I did.”
Alice pondered. “You went to war, of course—”
“Yes; but not under modern conditions.”
Saki was the pen-name of Hector Hugh Munro (1870–1916). He was an author and playwright best known for his subtle and witty short stories. He wrote for periodicals such as the Westminster Gazette, the Daily Express, the Bystander, the Morning Post, and the Outlook.
Charles Geake (1867–1919) was, from 1892 to 1918, the head of the Liberal Publication Department, which had been established in 1887 by the National Liberal Federation (a union of all English and Welsh (but not Scottish) Liberal Associations), and the Liberal Central Association (an organization which had been founded in 1874 to facilitate Liberal Party communication throughout United Kingdom).
Francis Carruthers Gould (1844–1925) was a political cartoonist and caricaturist who contributed to the Pall Mall Gazette until he joined the Westminster Gazette when it was founded. He later became an assistant editor for that publication. In addition to illustrating Saki’s Westminster Alice in a series of publications from 1900 to 1902, Gould also illustrated Charles Geake’s parody John Bull’s Adventures in the Fiscal Wonderland, published in 1904.
The Westminster Alice vignettes were collected together and published in Westminster Popular No. 18 in 1902. Twentyfive years later, John Alfred Spender (1862–1942), who had edited the Westminster Gazette from 1896 until 1922, published them again with a foreword and a set of footnotes. These are re-published here, to help guide the reader into understanding and appreciating the context of Saki’s parodies.
In his 1927 edition, Spender re-arranged the vignettes in chronological order—that is, in the order in which they had been published in the Westminster Gazette. Here, I have reverted to the order in which Saki had published them in 1902, as it seems to me that he may have arranged them thus for reasons of narrative or—well, to be honest, I don’t know, but I’d rather not second-guess him. The dates of publication are given for those readers interested in the chronology, however.
In preparing this edition, I have in places modernized punctuation and capitalization to suit the preferences of the modern reader; Spender had made some of these changes in his 1927 edition, though the 1902 text has been used as the basis for the text here.
I am grateful to the University of Bristol Library, Special Collections, for permission to reproduce Francis Carruthers Gould’s “His own Inventions”, originally published in 1922, as an appendix to this edition.
I am likewise grateful to Hugh Cahill, Assistant Librarian at the Foyle Special Collections Library in King’s College London for his permission to reprint, as an afterword, his 2008 review of The Westminster Alice, which first appeared on the web in a slightly different form as one of continuing series of pieces based on notable items from the collections of the Foyle Special Collections Library.
HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2017-02-22
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