Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
is a comic novel written by Jerome K. Jerome. Published in 1889, it is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. Despite being nearly 130 years old, its humor still holds up quite well to anyone with a preference for dry, British wit.
The three men are based on Jerome himself (the narrator J.) and two real-life friends, George Wingrave (who went on to become a senior manager in Barclays Bank) and Carl Hentschel (the founder of a London printing business, called Harris in the book), with whom Jerome often took boating trips. The dog, Montmorency, is entirely fictional, but "as Jerome admits, developed out of that area of inner consciousness which, in all Englishmen, contains an element of the dog." The trip is a typical boating holiday of the time in a Thames camping skiff. This is just after commercial boat traffic on the Upper Thames had died out, replaced by the 1880s craze for boating as a leisure activity.
Because of the overwhelming success of Three Men in a Boat
, Jerome later published a sequel, about a cycling tour in Germany, titled Three Men on the Bummel
Provides examples of:
The sight of those [private property] notice-boards rouses every evil instinct in my nature. I feel I want to tear each one down, and hammer it over the head of the man who put it up, until I have killed him, and then I would bury him, and put the board up over the grave as a tombstone.
I mentioned these feelings of mine to Harris, and he said he had them worse than that. He said he not only felt he wanted to kill the man who caused the board to be put up, but that he should like to slaughter the whole of his family and all his friends and relations, and then burn down his house. This seemed to me to be going too far, and I said so to Harris; but he answered:
“Not a bit of it. Serve ’em all jolly well right, and I’d go and sing comic songs on the ruins.”
And of course, it's the comic songs that bother Jerome the most. Then again, Harris is one of the worlds most Dreadful Musicians
- Canine Companion - The chaps have the canine delinquent Montmorency.
- Doom It Yourself - Uncle Podger seems prone to this, as illustrated by the story of his hanging a painting.
- Dreadful Musician - When people laugh at Harris's comic songs, he takes it as a compliment. But it's not the lyrics that hey are laughing at.
- Epic Fail - Uncle Podger again. There are a few more examples of his approach to doing things in the sequel.
- Everything's Louder With Bagpipes
- Gaslighting - Done by Jerome and Harris to George in Prague in the sequel Three Men on the Bummel. In an attempt to stop him drinking so much, they exploit the fact that the Czechs have been putting up temporary statues of King Wenceslas all around the city to work out where the real one would look best, convincing George he's having drunken hallucinations.
- The Gay Nineties
- Giftedly Bad - Harris singing comic songs. He appears to be capable of single-handedly giving the pianist a nervous breakdown.
- Have a Gay Old Time - Use of the word queer to describe seasickness. However, in many ways, the book seems undated to the modern reader, with the jokes seeming fresh and witty even today.
- Horrible Camping Trip - well, occasionally. Most of the time, they are enjoying themselves just fine, but some days are quite bad.
- Hypocritical Humour: Quite a bit. In one passage the author breaks into an indignant speech against motor boats, and how they are unsportsmanlike and polluting, and make waves that flood your boat, and how those "boatsmen", who have them being towed by motorboats, are the shame of the honest boat-folk, and gives advise on how you should take every chance to annoy them by getting in their way. Later a friend with a motor boat offers to take them on a tow, and, naturally, before long he breaks into another indignant speech about those clumsy assholes on their stupid rowboats, who cannot see where they are going and get in the way of respectable people and how he'd like to murder them all.
- Induced Hypochondria - Jerome does this to himself after accidentally reading an entire medical dictionary, and becoming convinced that he has every disease described in it (except housemaid's knee).
- In Which a Trope Is Described
- Lemony Narrator
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body - There's a passage several pages long detailing how a person's mood depends entirely on what he is eating, and what this food is doing to the body.
- Mood Whiplash - Because of the above the serious and somewhat sentimental passages sometimes seem a distraction to the comic novel. Many others are a leftover from the book's original concept, where it was a straight travel guide.
- No Can Opener - which leads to...
- Noodle Incident - we never know what exactly happened when J hitted the can with the tree for the first time. We know only that Harris got a superficial wound, while the straw hat saved George's life.
- Nostalgia Filter: Invoked, sort of. There is a sequence in which J muses on how his contemporary Victorians love pottery and sculpture from the past that would have been very ordinary in its day. He wonders if in the 20th and 21st centuries people will similarly adore very ordinary things from his own period, with Japanese tourists coming to take pictures of them in museums—a surprisingly accurate prediction.
- Stop Drowning and Stand Up - J describes this happening in a story about getting up early to swim on vacation.