Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
by Jerome K. Jerome was first published in 1889. It is the fictional
story of three London friends and a dog taking a leisurely boat trip up
the River Thames, from Kingston-upon-Thames to Oxford. It is narrated by
‘J.’, whose companions are George (awarded no surname), William Samuel
Harris and the dog, Montmorency.
During a sociable evening in J.’s room, the three men convince
themselves that they each have various illnesses. Their collective
diagnosis is overwork, and they prescribe themselves a fortnight’s
holiday. A stay in the country and a sea voyage are both ruled out, and
they settle instead on a boating trip, travelling on the Thames by day
and camping out in the hired boat at night.
They set out the following Saturday. George must work in the City in
the morning, and so arranges to join them later that day. The other two,
accompanied by the dog and a mountain of luggage, get a cab to Waterloo
station, but are unable to find the correct train to Kingston.
Eventually they bribe the driver of another train to take them there
instead, one of the many humorous set-pieces that make the book more
than a straightforward travelogue. George completes the trio at
Weybridge, with a dubious-looking parcel tucked under his arm, which
turns out to be a banjo and instruction book.
The story is a tapestry of incidents that occur, anecdotes on various
topics (including the unreliability of weather forecasts), loosely
connected digressions (such as J.'s uncle’s inability to hang pictures),
and descriptive pieces on the places that they pass. It is in these
descriptive pieces that the author’s original intention of writing a
guidebook is most apparent. What he actually achieved was a classic of
British humorous writing. Although the book was written over a century
ago, it has an enduring, timeless quality.