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Anstey, F

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Author.

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Pseudonym of Thomas Anstey Guthrie (1856-1934), UK author and humorist, best known for his many contributions to the magazine Punch from the 1880s and for his classic satirical fantasies, in most of which some magical item is introduced into contemporary society, with chaotic consequences. These were widely imitated by many writers, including R Andom, W D Darlington (1890-1979) and Richard Marsh (1857-1915), and thus became the archetypes of a distinctive subgenre of "Ansteyan fantasies". In his most successful work, Vice Versâ, or A Lesson to Fathers (1882; rev 1883), a Victorian gentleman and his schoolboy son exchange personalities (see Identity Exchange); the novel has to date been twice filmed – Vice Versa (1948) was directed by Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) with Michael Anderson as assistant director – and at least twice adapted as a television serial.

In The Tinted Venus: A Farcical Romance (1885) – dramatized by Ogden Nash (1902-1971), S J Perelman (1904-1979) and Kurt Weill (1900-1950) as One Touch of Venus (performed 7 October 1943 Imperial Theatre, New York; 1944) – a young man accidentally revives the Roman goddess of love, and in A Fallen Idol (1886) an oriental deity exerts a sinister influence on a young artist. The protagonist of The Brass Bottle (February-September 1900 The Strand Magazine; 1900) acquires the services of an over-helpful djinn; In Brief Authority (1915) reverses the pattern, with a Victorian matron established as queen of the Brothers Grimm's Märchenland. Anstey's work comes closest to sf in Tourmalin's Time Cheques (A Farcical Extravagance) (1891; vt The Time Bargain; or, Tourmalin's Cheque Book 1905), one of the earliest Time-Paradox stories and a pioneering example of Time Out of Sequence complications, though in the end unsatisfactorily resolved as a dream. The anonymously published The Statement of Stella Maberly, Written by Herself (1896) is an interesting story of abnormal Psychology. [BS/DRL]

Thomas Anstey Guthrie

born London: 8 August 1856

died London: 10 March 1934

works (selected)

collections and stories


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