A flamboyant, wealthy aesthete, the 14th Baron Berners (1883-1950) was, in no particular order, a composer, writer, painter, musical collaborator with Sacheverell Sitwell and Gertrude Stein, and friend of John Betjeman, Rosamond Lehmann and Nancy Mitford. This omnibus of six of his arch, epigrammatic stories and short novels recalls H.H. ""Saki"" Munro in their light comedy, displayed in such disparate situations as that of a disruptive camel who adopts a village vicar's wife; palace intrigue set in a late-Ptolemaic kingdom; an inheritance-sabotaging lapdog; or academic life during wartime. The most amusing of these, ""The Romance of a Nose,"" features a young Cleopatra seeking proto-plastic surgery to alter her profile and change the face of the Roman world. There is always an air of pastiche in Berners's style, and his characters are often parodic studies of British high society; in ""Count Omega,"" the mercurial title character's hapless prot g , Emanuel Smith, is a lightly fictionalized version of Sitwell-crony and composer William Walton. Berners lances (and not without homoerotic tension) the masculine anxiety in and around one ""Percy Wallingford,"" an exasperatingly perfect young man of whom a worshipful classmate says, ""The Greek God had descended from Olympus but had lost nothing in his transition to earth."" As the aesthete-at-loose-ends, Lord FitzCricket in the WWII academic soft-satire ""Far from the Madding War,"" confesses, ""I'm... fundamentally superficial. I am also private spirited."" Readers may find this also applies to the eccentric aristocrat Berners's writings, but for those who like their short fiction light, the sugary surreality of these whimsies may provide amusement. (May) FYI: Berners's two-volume autobiography, First Childhood and A Distant Prospect, was released in 1998 by Turtle Point Press and Helen Marx Books.