“Cousin Teresa” by Saki

The story can be found here.

On one level, Saki (H. H. Munro) was clearly reproaching the British for being less concerned with the maintenance of their Empire than with the domains of popular entertainment and dogs – and who can blame them really? Expanding an empire is a thankless task.

“Cousin Teresa” also makes the point that, in the eyes of the world, solid achievements will always count for less than fluff. “It’s immense,” is how Lucas characterizes his idea for a dance routine — and indeed it’s still the sort of idea that passes for “big” within the culture industry. Andrew Lloyd Webber should really come up with a tune for it.

Saki’s own nature was somewhat split between Lucas and Basset – how seriously after all can we take a colonial administrator named Basset? In Britain itself, the tendency to prefer Lucas over Basset has since played out most of the way to its logical conclusion.

Still… basset or borzoi… Saki may have felt that either way the country was going to the dogs. I wonder if the story was ever the subject of an Edwardian sermon.

Allow me to note that “Cousin Teresa” contains the following great sentence —

“’Literature,’ explained the Minister.”

Quite so.

Some info about Saki here. Other stories from his 1914 collection Beasts and Super-Beasts here.

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