Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Trip on the Thames

Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the DogThree Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog 
by Jerome K. Jerome

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. ”   ― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

Jerome K. Jerome wrote a leisurely chronicle of a summer's boating holiday on the Thames. It was published in 1889 when he was only thirty years old. It was a success as a popular humorous book and has remained in print to this day. While some of the book is pure farce his main approach to humor was understatement and outrageous exaggeration in a style that reminds one of some of Twain's comic writings. He described his technique thus:

"Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing: but this is a mistake. Mere bald fabrication is useless; the veriest tyro can manage that. It is in the circumstantial detail, the embellishing touches of probability, the general air of scrupulous---almost pedantic---veracity, that the experienced angler is seen."

His humor relies on the diabolic malice of inanimate objects when they escape from civilization: of the infrangibility of cans when the can opener has been left behind, the ingenuity of an untended rope, the cunning of kettles and leaking kerosene. His narrator is known simply as J. while his companions are Harris and George (though they are somewhat shadowy characters) and of course there is Montmorency, the dog.

"To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth, for some reason withheld from mankind, in the shape of a small fox-terrier. There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and -nobler expression about Montmorency that has been known to bring tears into the eyes of pious old ladies and gentlemen."

With a convivial narrator and two friends, to say nothing of the dog, this tale of a boat trip is simply one of the funniest and most delightful short books that I have ever read.

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cleopatra said...

This book is a favourite of mine as well. The humour is marvellous, but Jerome also gives a lovely description of his trip up the Thames. I read his Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow last year and that was funny as well, but I think Three Men and a Boat is his best.

James said...


Thanks for sharing your experience with this book. I appreciate the information about another book by Jerome, whose humor is invigorating and bracing.

Brian Joseph said...

It has been a long time since I have read this. I remember it being ironic and humorous.

I distinctly remember the incident when it was realized that there was no can opener :)