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Anstey was educated at King's College School and then at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Although his education was first rate Anstey could only manage a third-class degree; A Gentlemen’s degree as it was euphemistically known.
In 1880 he was called to the bar. However this career path rapidly fell away in his desire to become an author. The successful publication of Vice Versa, in 1882, with the premise of a substitution of a father for his schoolboy son, made his name and reputation as a refreshing and original humorist.
The following year he published a rather more serious work, The Giant's Robe. Interestingly the story is about a plagiarist and Anstey was, ironically, accused of plagiarism in writing the work. Despite good reviews both he and his public knew that his writing career was to be that of a humorist.
In the following years he published prolifically beginning with; The Black Poodle (1884), The Tinted Venus (1885), A Fallen Idol (1886), and Baboo Jabberjee B.A. (1897).
Anstey worked not only as a novelist and short story writer but was also a valued member of the staff at the humorous Punch magazine, in which his voces populi and his parodies of a reciter's stock-piece (Burglar Bill) represent perhaps his best work.
In 1901, his successful farce, The Man from Blankleys, based on a story that originally appeared in Punch, was first produced on stage at the Prince of Wales Theatre, in London. Anstey had become a writer, and a successful one at that, of many talents. Many more of his stories were made into plays and films over the years. Others were simply taken for the premise alone, usually with no credit to the original author.
By the end of the First World War Anstey’s original publications had slowed to a crawl and he seemed rather more interested in translating and publishing some works of Moliere. Thomas Anstey Guthrie died of pneumonia on March 10th, 1934 in London. His self-deprecating autobiography, A Long Retrospect, was published in 1936.