What could be more relaxing than a refreshing holiday on the river with your two best friends and faithful canine companion, Montmorency? However, as J. discovers, there is more to life on the waves than meets the eye—including navigational challenges, culinary disasters, and heroic battles with swans, kettles, and tins of pineapple. Jerome K. Jerome’s delightful novel has kept readers smiling for years and his prose has found a perfect partner in Vic Reeves’s glorious and witty illustrations.
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About the Author
Jerome K. Jerome (1859–1927) is the author of Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow and the sequel to Three Men in a Boat, Three Men on the Bummel. Vic Reeves is an English comedian, best known for his double act with Bob Mortimer.
Read an Excerpt
Three Men in a Boat
By Jerome K. Jerome
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Three invalids.—Sufferings of George and Harris.—A victim to one hundred and seven fatal maladies.—Useful prescriptions.—Cure for liver complaint in children.—We agree that we are overworked, and need rest.—A week on the rolling deep?—George suggests the River.—Montmorency lodges an objection.—Original motion carried by majority of three to one.
There were four of us—George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were—bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.
We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.
It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.
I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch—hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into—some fearful, devastating scourge, I know—and, before I had glanced half down the list of "premonitory symptoms," it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.
I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever—read the symptoms—discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it—wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus's Dance—found, as I expected, that I had that too—began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically—read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee.
I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid's knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.
I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to "walk the hospitals," if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.
Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet fever.
I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.
I went to my medical man. He is an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I'm ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to him now. "What a doctor wants," I said, "is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two diseases each." So I went straight up and saw him, and he said:
"Well, what's the matter with you?"
"I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the matter with me. Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had finished. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. I have not got housemaid's knee. Why I have not got housemaid's knee, I cannot tell you; but the fact remains that I have not got it. Everything else, however, I have got."
And I told him how I came to discover it all.
Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my wrist, and then he hit me over the chest when I wasn't expecting it—a cowardly thing to do, I call it—and immediately afterwards butted me with the side of his head. After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it me, and I put it in my pocket and went out.
I did not open it. I took it to the nearest chemist's, and handed it in. The man read it, and then handed it back.
He said he didn't keep it.
"You are a chemist?"
"I am a chemist. If I was a co-operative stores and family hotel combined, I might be able to oblige you. Being only a chemist hampers me."
I read the prescription. It ran:
"1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
And don't stuff up your head with things you don't understand."
I followed the directions, with the happy result—speaking for myself—that my life was preserved, and is still going on.
In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being "a general disinclination to work of any kind."
What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.
"Why, you skulking little devil, you," they would say, "get up and do something for your living, can't you?"—not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
And they didn't give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And, strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me—for the time being. I have known one clump on the head have more effect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.
You know, it often is so—those simple, old-fashioned remedies are sometimes more efficacious than all the dispensary stuff.
We sat there for half-an-hour, describing to each other our maladies. I explained to George and William Harris how I felt when I got up in the morning, and William Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed; and George stood on the hearth-rug, and gave us a clever and powerful piece of acting, illustrative of how he felt in the night.
George fancies he is ill; but there's never anything really the matter with him, you know.
At this point, Mrs. Poppets knocked at the door to know if we were ready for supper. We smiled sadly at one another, and said we supposed we had better try to swallow a bit. Harris said a little something in one's stomach often kept the disease in check; and Mrs. Poppets brought the tray in, and we drew up to the table, and toyed with a little steak and onions, and some rhubarb tart.
I must have been very weak at the time; because I know, after the first half-hour or so, I seemed to take no interest whatever in my food—an unusual thing for me—and I didn't want any cheese.
This duty done, we refilled our glasses, lit our pipes, and resumed the discussion upon our state of health. What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it—whatever it was—had been brought on by overwork.
"What we want is rest," said Harris.
"Rest and a complete change," said George. "The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium."
George has a cousin, who is usually described in the charge-sheet as a medical student, so that he naturally has a somewhat family-physicianary way of putting things.
I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes—some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world—some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-off and faint.
Harris said he thought it would be humpy. He said he knew the sort of place I meant; where everybody went to bed at eight o'clock, and you couldn't get a Referee for love or money, and had to walk ten miles to get your baccy.
"No," said Harris, "if you want rest and change, you can't beat a sea trip."
I objected to the sea trip strongly. A sea trip does you good when you are going to have a couple of months of it, but, for a week, it is wicked.
You start on Monday with the idea implanted in your bosom that you are going to enjoy yourself. You wave an airy adieu to the boys on shore, light your biggest pipe, and swagger about the deck as if you were Captain Cook, Sir Francis Drake, and Christopher Columbus all rolled into one. On Tuesday, you wish you hadn't come. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, you wish you were dead. On Saturday, you are able to swallow a little beef tea, and to sit up on deck, and answer with a wan, sweet smile when kind-hearted people ask you how you feel now. On Sunday, you begin to walk about again, and take solid food. And on Monday morning, as, with your bag and umbrella in your hand, you stand by the gunwale, waiting to step ashore, you begin to thoroughly like it.
I remember my brother-in-law going for a short sea trip once, for the benefit of his health. He took a return berth from London to Liverpool; and when he got to Liverpool, the only thing he was anxious about was to sell that return ticket.
It was offered round the town at a tremendous reduction, so I am told; and was eventually sold for eighteenpence to a bilious-looking youth who had just been advised by his medical men to go to the sea-side, and take exercise.
"Sea-side!" said my brother-in-law, pressing the ticket affectionately into his hand; "why, you'll have enough to last you a lifetime; and as for exercise! why, you'll get more exercise, sitting down on that ship, than you would turning somersaults on dry land."
He himself—my brother-in-law—came back by train. He said the North-Western Railway was healthy enough for him.
Another fellow I knew went for a week's voyage round the coast, and, before they started, the steward came to him to ask whether he would pay for each meal as he had it, or arrange beforehand for the whole series.
The steward recommended the latter course, as it would come so much cheaper. He said they would do him for the whole week at two pounds five. He said for breakfast there would be fish, followed by a grill. Lunch was at one, and consisted of four courses. Dinner at six—soup, fish, entree, joint, poultry, salad, sweets, cheese, and dessert. And a light meat supper at ten.
My friend thought he would close on the two-pound-five job (he is a hearty eater), and did so.
Lunch came just as they were off Sheerness. He didn't feel so hungry as he thought he should, and so contented himself with a bit of boiled beef, and some strawberries and cream. He pondered a good deal during the afternoon, and at one time it seemed to him that he had been eating nothing but boiled beef for weeks, and at other times it seemed that he must have been living on strawberries and cream for years.
Neither the beef nor the strawberries and cream seemed happy, either—seemed discontented like.
At six, they came and told him dinner was ready. The announcement aroused no enthusiasm within him, but he felt that there was some of that two-pound-five to be worked off, and he held on to ropes and things and went down. A pleasant odour of onions and hot ham, mingled with fried fish and greens, greeted him at the bottom of the ladder; and then the steward came up with an oily smile, and said:
"What can I get you, sir?"
"Get me out of this," was the feeble reply.
And they ran him up quick, and propped him up, over to leeward, and left him.
For the next four days he lived a simple and blameless life on thin captain's biscuits (I mean that the biscuits were thin, not the captain) and soda-water; but, towards Saturday, he got uppish, and went in for weak tea and dry toast, and on Monday he was gorging himself on chicken broth. He left the ship on Tuesday, and as it steamed away from the landing-stage he gazed after it regretfully.
"There she goes," he said, "there she goes, with two pounds' worth of food on board that belongs to me, and that I haven't had."
He said that if they had given him another day he thought he could have put it straight. So I set my face against the sea trip. Not, as I explained, upon my own account. I was never queer. But I was afraid for George. George said he should be all right, and would rather like it, but he would advise Harris and me not to think of it, as he felt sure we should both be ill. Harris said that, to himself, it was always a mystery how people managed to get sick at sea—said he thought people must do it on purpose, from affectation—said he had often wished to be, but had never been able.
Then he told us anecdotes of how he had gone across the Channel when it was so rough that the passengers had to be tied into their berths, and he and the captain were the only two living souls on board who were not ill. Sometimes it was he and the second mate who were not ill; but it was generally he and one other man. If not he and another man, then it was he by himself.
It is a curious fact, but nobody ever is sea-sick—on land. At sea, you come across plenty of people very bad indeed, whole boat-loads of them; but I never met a man yet, on land, who had ever known at all what it was to be sea-sick. Where the thousands upon thousands of bad sailors that swarm in every ship hide themselves when they are on land is a mystery.
If most men were like a fellow I saw on the Yarmouth boat one day, I could account for the seeming enigma easily enough. It was just off Southend Pier, I recollect, and he was leaning out through one of the port-holes in a very dangerous position. I went up to him to try and save him.
"Hi! come further in," I said, shaking him by the shoulder. "You'll be overboard."
"Oh my! I wish I was," was the only answer I could get; and there I had to leave him.
Excerpted from Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Copyright © 2014 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This title came to me from a book store in Durham NC. They were about to have a local author review it. The thing that interested me most is that it was published 120 yrs. ago and has Never been out of print. Yet, it is just as interesting now as it was then. The one major drawback for me was that the book didn't include a map of the river area where the characters were boating. The author originally planned this book as a travel narrative. He decided that he should add some characters to make it more palatable. He added himself and a couple of friends. And the dog, which I didn't think added appreciably to the book, regardless of the cover blurb. What he winds up with is an interesting mish-mnash of travelogue and stream of consciousness chatter. Not boring. Mostly not laugh-out-loud. Just a nice fun read. Good hammock reading. A good pick to keep in your purse to read in waiting rooms and such.
Every page of the book is fun to read. period.
I got this as a present after I'd been raving about Connie Willis' 'To say Nothing of the Dog' and it is a very nice and comic book. It covers a trip up the Thames in 1888 (I think) and the adventures had. Possibly the funniest bit is the German singer and everyone laughing at his tragic song because someone tells them it's a comic song. It's worth the read.
I loved this classic tale of three Victorian slackers boating on the Thames. The first-person narration of their bumbling pleasure trip up and down the river is filled with dry humor, frequent rabbit trails, and the occasional overly-flowery Victorian paragraph. Jerome K. Jerome's humorous style has clearly influenced other British writers such as Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and Terry Pratchett (Discworld). This is a must read of any fan of British humor.
The story is great, a classic. But the digital formatting of this free edition makes the book hard to read. Spending .99 or 1.99 for a formatted copy would be worthwhile.
This has been digitized from a print edition. It has so many typos it's not worth reading.
Any one on?
After two long, heavy reads, I took a very light digression with Three Men in a Boat. It's a stylish but largely frivolous and frequently slapstick 19th-century travelogue covering about a 50-mile stretch of the River Thames from Kingston to Oxford. I'd call it amusing but by no means hilarious and can't really see how this book acquired its reputation.
Wryly humorous and proof that nothing at all has changed in human nature in the last hundred years or so.
Classic book narrated by a gentleman who describes--in great detail--his observations upon the boating trip he and two chums went on. Nothing much really seems to happen here, it's just an excuse for the narrator to share family antedotes and his own general opinions of the world as he relates their boating mishaps. Recommended as an early example of a 'thriller' but there's not much thrilling about it.
This was a bit of a departure from the usual book I read, but I'd heard good things about it from some fellow LTers, and the fact that this was an audiobook read quite delightfully by Hugh Laurie made it all the more appealing. However, I found it only mildly amusing. At times it reminded me of vacations taken as a child, when my dad would never admit that we were lost or that he didn't know how to do something, however much of a botch he made of it (like trying to pitch a tent after midnight in the rain with only the car headlights to see by). Both the plot and the characters were a bit slim; Montmorency, the fox terrier, was probably the most interesting. Don't get me wrong: it wasn't bad, it's just not a book that will stick with me for long. If you're looking for a bit of light humor that you can read or listen to in a few hours, you might enjoy it more than I did.
I read the Connie Willis book To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I found only vaguely entertaining. However, the book was written as a tribute to Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, so I bought that to see what it was about. It is very amusing, which is all the more remarkable considering that it was written in 1889. The sequel, Three Men on the Bummel, is also quite amusing, up until the part where they actually go on the trip, whereupon it becomes rather unremarkable. The first book was written by JKJ about himself and his friends when they were in their 20s, and the second, written in 1900, finds them now in their 30s and married. Highly recommended.
Great illustrations that really augment this wonderful funny story.
A humorous series of anecdotes on human nature strung together within the framework of a story about three men, to say nothing of the dog, taking a boating trip.This novel wasn't what I expected. I thought it would have the normal dialog and narrative structure of a modern novel. Instead, the author interrupts the story to tell hilarious tales about each situation. This threw me off in the beginning but I became used to it as I read. The book was written in 1889, but since the humor is about human foibles we can relate to it even today.
I definite "fight the blues" book. Lots of great British humor. The oddest thing about the book is that--while poking fun at nature writing--JKJ simultaneously writes some beautiful descriptions of nature. Also little odd bits that give the book a quirky personality. Sections on the Magna Carta (!) and on the discovery of a dead body (femaie, fallen woman, deserted by family and friends) don't fit in any traditional way, but they work nonetheless. Perhaps JKJ, while telling us not to take ourselves too seriously, is also telling us not to take ourselves too lightly, either. I recommend this.
I found this book dull in the extreme and could not wait for it to finish! I was looking foward to it, having read so many favourable reviews, and being a huge fan of Victorian literature. I did not find it funny at all. It was silly, exaggerated and the both the poetic descriptions and the boating details went straight over my head.
It's hard to believe that a 130-year-old humorous account of a boating trip on the Thames could be as fresh today as when it was written. But it remains hilarious.The three men are based on the author himself and two real-life friends, and and a totally fictitious dog, Montmorency, who is as much a character as the three men. One of the funniest moments in the book is when the three men decide to make an Irish stew by using pretty much all the food they had on hand. The dog decided to help:"I forget the other ingredients, but I know nothing was wasted; and I remember that, towards the end, Montmorency, who had evinced great interest in the proceedings throughout, strolled away with an earnest and thoughtful air, reappearing, a few minutes afterwards, with a dead water-rat in his mouth, which he evidently wished to present as his contribution to the dinner; whether in a sarcastic spirit, or with a genuine desire to assist, I cannot say."
A travel writing detailing three men's travels through England. This forms the basis for the anecdotal asides which are oftentimes funny. However, the humor is not sustained and the pattern grows tiresome. Usually there is a brief discussion about travels and then the author will say something like "that reminds me of a time" therein launching into a story. As such, the work reads like loosely bound humorous vignettes without any read tie as many of the asides have little or nothing to do with travel.
That Three Men in a Boat was written in 1889 is absolutely fantastic! It is incredibly readable and modern in their language! It's about three good friends who will make a trip on the Thames by boat. The problem is that they are completely useless in outdoor activities, from unpacking to handle the boat. The story is mixed with the narrator's juicy anecdotes and exaggerations! You laugh right out when you read it!
Embarrassingly funny. I had to move to a secluded spot to read this book because people kept asking me what was so funny. I did not identify with the characters but the tale is truthful in a comical way. Good read!
found this to be hilarious when i was about fourteen. probably still a good read for some.
Just good honest humour, and though it may be from a bygone age it's still easily capable of raising a belly laugh today. Uncle Podger reminds me of my husband; the account of him hanging a picture on the wall had me in stitches.
gentle witty book, should be on the regular re read rotunda.
George, Harris, J., and Montmorency (the dog) pack up supplies and take off for a boat trip down the Thames. This may be one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. The philosophy was right up my alley. The "blurbs" at the beginning of each chapter were almost as funny as the chapter itself. I thought Jerome did a wonderful job of interspersing stories from the past with what they were doing as they went along. I laughed and laughed. A perfect antidote to real life.
I didn't enjoy this as much as P.G. Wodehouse, one of my favorite authors. But in the midst of the silliness there is a transcendent moment in the night when the narrator realizes that "Pain and Sorrow are but the angels of God." (p. 107) He concludes the chapter with a story about a knight lost in a woods and his experience there. Later in the book, they find the body of a woman who had drowned herself. He tells her story, as he later learned it, poignantly and with great sympathy for the woman's plight. (p. 181-183)