Title page of an 1882 edition
|Publisher||D. Appleton & Company|
|Media type||Print (hardback)|
Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers is a comic novel by Thomas Anstey Guthrie, writing under the pseudonym "F. Anstey", first published in 1882. The title originates from the Latin phrase, "vice versa", meaning "the other way around".
Set in contemporary Victorian times, the novel concerns businessman Paul Bultitude and his son Dick. Dick is about to leave home to return to a boarding school run by the cane-wielding headmaster, Dr. Grimstone. Bultitude, seeing his son's fear of returning to school, asserts that schooldays are the best years of a boy's life, and how he wishes he were the one going.
At this point, thanks to a magic stone brought by an uncle from India which grants the possessor one wish, the father becomes a boy identical to the son. They are now on even terms. Dick, holding the stone, is ordered by his father to return him to his own body, but Dick refuses, and decides instead to become a man identical to how his father looked before the change. Mr Bultitude has to begin the new term at his son's boarding school, while Dick gets a chance to run his father's business in the City. In the end, both are restored to their own bodies, with a better understanding of each other.
The BBC made a six-part radio series in 1947, adapted and produced by Felix Felton. Paul Bultitude was played by Ronald Simpson, and his mischievous son Dick by John Clark. Dr. Grimstone was played by veteran radio actor Ralph Truman. An early example of creative sound effects before the days of tape meant that when the father succeeds in his wish to be just like his son going off to school, juvenile actor John Clark had to talk to himself. So he had to pre-record the father's dialogue on the 15 inch disks used at that time, and leave gaps for the son's character to speak. After much careful rehearsal, the broadcast went out live, with naturalistic speech overlaps.
The story has also been adapted for television at least three times, and for film at least five times. The 1948 British film was written and directed by Peter Ustinov, and starred Roger Livesey as Paul Bultitude and Anthony Newley (fresh from the Italia Conti Academy) as Dick. John Clark, who had played Dick in the radio adaptation, was initially auditioned and cast by Ustinov, with a seven-year Rank contract. However, his agent had overlooked a clause in his Just William theatre contract, which gave an option for the tour to be repeated across England for another year. Newley was therefore cast in his place.
The 1988 film version, adapted into a modern setting, starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage as the father and son. It did not credit F. Anstey's novel as its source in its initial release, but retained the title.
Vice Versa is also mentioned in Episode 15, "Circe", of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922); in Chapter 6 of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano (1947); in Evelyn Waugh's Officers and Gentlemen (1955) (the second in his Sword of Honour Trilogy) as the novel Guy was reading in the summer-garden; in Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (1955); in Chapter V of A Prisoner in Fairyland by Algernon Blackwood (1913); and in Chapter 3, section 3 of "Evil under the Sun" by Agatha Christie (1941); in "In Search of Treasure" by Horatio Alger.