Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), by Jerome K. Jerome

I enjoyed Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog so much that I promptly needed to read Three Men in a Boat too.  I had a lot of fun with it!  It's a great little relaxing and funny read.

J. and his two friends need a break from the turmoil of life, so they decide to take two weeks on the river.  They will hire a boat and go up the Thames, camping or staying at inns and enjoying the open air and scenery.  So off they go, traveling from the edge of London to Oxford, having adventures on the way.

Jerome is just a really funny writer.  It's great stuff.  He takes a camping trip and turns it into immortal literature.   Here's a bit on the awkwardness of staying in a house where there is a courting couple...

It must have been much like this when that foolish boy Henry VIII was courting his little Anne.  People in Buckinghamshire would have come upon them unexpectedly when they were mooning round Windsor and Wraysbury, and have exclaimed, “Oh! you here!” and Henry would have blushed and said, “Yes; he’d just come over to see a man;” and Anne would have said, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you!  Isn’t it funny?  I’ve just met Mr. Henry VIII. in the lane, and he’s going the same way I am.”
Then those people would have gone away and said to themselves: “Oh! we’d better get out of here while this billing and cooing is on.  We’ll go down to Kent."

And they would go to Kent, and the first thing they would see in Kent, when they got there, would be Henry and Anne fooling round Hever Castle.

“Oh, drat this!” they would have said.  “Here, let’s go away.  I can’t stand any more of it.  Let’s go to St. Albans—nice quiet place, St. Albans.”
And when they reached St. Albans, there would be that wretched couple, kissing under the Abbey walls.  Then these folks would go and be pirates until the marriage was over.
Every so often, Jerome stops being funny and puts in some philosophy or sentiment.  In these spots, he writes the kind of prose that only a Victorian could possibly have written.  I do not say it is bad prose; it's just really, really Victorian.  I tried quoting some, but you'll just have to read it in context.

I've now made something of a triangle.  I read Have Spacesuit, Will Travel last month, and in it, Kip's dad reads Three Men in a Boat and talks about how great it is.  Connie Willis read it for that reason, and dedicated To Say Nothing of the Dog to Heinlein.  Neat, huh?

I traced the Thames from London to Oxford.  To me, it looks really long and far for a rowing trip.  They do have a sail every so often, but I can't quite understand how they can possibly get so far while rowing upstream.  If some English person could enlighten me I would be grateful.  Anyway, the majority of the trip is spent in Berkshire, so that's where I'm counting this book.


  1. The Bummell book is good too, a sort of follow up to this. And I loved his After Dinner Ghost Stories, very funny. I have his Novel Notes on my tbr pile for this year and years ago I read a very good biography, he led quite an interesting life, driving an ambulance in WW1 etc. I think I'll reread Three Men in a Boat soon, inspired by your post.

  2. I still have not read this, even though I love To Say Nothing of the Dog. I didn't know of the Heinlein connection either. Must read both very soon!

  3. I'm in the middle of reading this! :D I love it, Jerome K Jerome is great. Have you read The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow? I really recommend that one :)

  4. That's a fine triangle! It makes me want to do a reading circle of my own, where I move from book to book based on things like that -- authors drawing inspiration from this book or that book, and what books they produced themselves as a result. My mum got put onto Mary Renault in the first place because Richard Adams quotes from The King Must Die in one of the chapter epigraphs in Watership Down. It's an interconnected world!

  5. I'll need to read those other Jerome books! I have read Idle Thoughts but that is all. Oh dear, so much to read, so little time.

  6. A few years ago I bought an Oxford copy of this book that also has the bummel book in it. I then neglected to read it. I think this summer I'll reread the first and finally get to the second!


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