Vice-Versa. By Thomas Anstey Guthrie.

Saturday, 26 January, Year 11 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

The usual treatment reserved on this fine sheet for "important" works that fail to intellectually live up to their supposed importance is dismissal, often enough along with their authors, and generally in words at considerable variance with any kind of kindnessi. Such was the unglamorous fate of say Murray N. Rothbard, or F. A. Hayek, or Anathem, or C. S. Lewis, or whatever various others that don't readily spring to mind.

More rarely (but infinitely more captivatingly) it occurs that I decide to fix decidedly bad writing, producing indelible gems such as say Runcible Doom, or The Progre, or the Story of a Boy and a Tree, or The Hour Of Reckoning, or The Lorax, or Stop All The Clocks, or Disgrace, or Zuleika Dobson, or Resplenduminous, or Ye Autre Demozel -- often with a pointedly directed intention of humiliating the original author to the point of excluding him it from the collective memory of humanity.ii

Sometimes I simply translate, which is how you get The Letter Third or The silver tusked boar, or La Moartea Lui Fulger, or Rinduieli or The Beoble, or Prime Pastrami, or Sobieskii si Romanii, or Muma lui Stefan cel Mare and so following (but nobody really cares about Romanian, as is doubtlessly proper and perhaps for the best). Nor is it always Romanian, either : there's Russian and Greek and all sorta curlique.

None of the lists are even vaguely close to being complete, and besides there's numerous items that defy even this approximative attempt at classification. There's even mixes of the two approaches -- take the jewel that's Talent Triumphant, or : On Empathy for the sole example as I tire of ennumeration already.

But the most rarely of all (which was my point) I simply like a bit of writing! It happened before for Mackay, and it happened for his lordship Rochester, as it happens now for Anstey : his Vice-Versa (a lesson to fathers) is generally worth the read, well balanced and elegant, betraying a lively intellect beneath moreso than Huxley's penmanship persay.

One item in particular bears exceptionally the quotation : when a boy who took over the body (and the bank accounts) of his father (who did not at all like him) meets again the defrauded, they say as follows

"But, Dick, you don't go up to Mincing Lane in that suit and that hat? Don't tell me you do that!"

"When I do go up, I wear them," said Dick composedly. "Why not? It's a roomy suit, and I hate a great topper on my head; I've had enough of that here on Sundays. But it's slow up at your office. The chaps there aren't half up to any larks. I made a first-rate booby-trap, though, one day for an old yellow buffer who came in to see you. He was in a bait when he found the waste-paper basket on his head!"

"What was his name?" said Paul, with forced calm.

"Something like 'Shells.' He said he was a very old friend of mine, and I told him he lied."

"Shellack—my Canton correspondent—a man I was anxious to be of use to when he came over!" moaned Mr. Bultitude. "Miserable young cub, you don't know what mischief you've done!"

"Well, it won't matter much to you now," said Dick; "you're out of it all."

"Do you—do you mean to keep me out of it for ever, then?" asked Paul.

"As long as ever I can!" returned Dick frankly. "It will be rather interesting to see what sort of a fellow you'll grow into—if you ever do grow. Perhaps you will always be like that, you know. This magic is a rumiii thing to meddle with."

This suggestion almost maddened Paul. He made one stride forward, and faced his son with blazing eyes. "Do you think I will put up with it?" he said, between his teeth. "Do you suppose I shall stand calmly by and see you degrading and ruining me? I may never be my old self again, but I don't mean to play into your hands for all that. You can't always keep me here, and wherever I go I'll tell my tale. I know you, you clumsy rogue, you haven't the sense to play your part with common intelligence now. You would betray yourself directly I challenged you to deny my story.... You know you would.... You couldn't face me for five minutes. By Gad! I'll do it now. I'll expose you before the Doctor—before the whole school. You shall see if you can dispose of me quite so easily as you imagine!"

"All sent to rack and ruin", says the ex-merchant, now stuck in a woman's notion of "a proper world" ; "That's absurd, you're not such an important an individual as all that", calmly retorts the moron in chargeiv.

Yet the elephant in the room, well borne by painful experience if apparently still obvious to "light" authors cca 1880s, is that Paul was in piquant point of fact quite as important individual as all that, and Dick is no substitute.

What can you do ?

Wherever the man goes, he tells his tale ; and here it is. Having told it to me, he received my imprimatur. I vouch for him. Where shall you now hide, Dickie ? And how ?

———
  1. To quote an older statement of indignation,

    MP's reactions are far, far outside of what we as people can tolerate.

    Because of course. []

  2. Not really, not altogether, but as a first approximation. []
  3. Amusingly, rum as the name of the drink comes from an original "rumbullion", meaning "excellent brew" in Gypsy. Because that's how you say "man", see ? []
  4. A very direct bridge over the years to Obama's famous "if you have a business you didn't build that business". []
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4 Responses

  1. No contest Runcible Doom is the better piece, but whydja hate The Owl and the Pussycat original? I heartily protest the wiping-from-human-memory of Edward Lear.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    2
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    Nothing as drastic is contemplated, I did say "often" after all! The original there's a rare case of inspiration rather than exasperation, he can stay unmolested.

  3. I protest the molestation denial heartlessly perpetrated upon Mr. Lear.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    4
    Mircea Popescu 
    Saturday, 26 January 2019

    You! Are becoming abstruse!

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