Three Men in a Boat
|Three Men in a Boat|
|Author(s)||Jerome K. Jerome|
|Publisher||J. W. Arrowsmith|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Followed by||Three Men on the Bummel|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
The book was initially intended to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history along the route, but the humorous elements took over to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages seem a distraction to the comic novel. One of the most praised things about Three Men in a Boat is how undated it appears to modern readers — the jokes seem fresh and witty even today.
The three men are based on Jerome himself (the narrator J.) and two real-life friends, George Wingrave (who would become a senior manager in Barclays Bank) and Carl Hentschel (the founder of a London printing business, called Harris in the book), with whom he 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.[Note 2] This was just after commercial boat traffic on the Upper Thames had died out, replaced by the 1880s craze for boating as a leisure activity.
A similar book was published seven years before Jerome's work, entitled Three in Norway (by two of them) by J. A. Lees and W. J. Clutterbuck. It tells of three men on an expedition into the wild Jotunheimen in Norway.
The story begins by introducing George, Harris, Jerome and Montmorency, a fox terrier. The men are spending an evening in J.'s room, smoking and discussing illnesses they fancy they suffer from. They conclude they are all suffering from 'overwork' and need a holiday. A stay in the country and a sea trip are both considered, then rejected after J. describes the bad experiences had by his brother-in-law and a friend on sea trips. The three decide on a boating holiday up the River Thames, from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford, during which they will camp, notwithstanding Jerome's anecdotes about previous experiences with tents and camping stoves.
They embark the following Saturday. George must go to work that morning ("George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day, except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two"), so J. and Harris make their way to Kingston by train. They are unable to find the correct train at Waterloo Station (the station's confusing layout was a well-known theme of Victorian comedy) so they bribe a train driver to take his train to Kingston, where they collect the hired boat and start the journey. They meet George up-river at Weybridge.
The remainder of the story describes their river journey and the incidents that occur. The book's original purpose as a guidebook is apparent as the narrator describes passing landmarks and villages such as Hampton Court Palace, Hampton Church, Monkey Island, Magna Carta Island and Marlow, and muses on historical associations of these places. However, he frequently digresses into humorous anecdotes that range from the unreliability of barometers for weather forecasting to the difficulties encountered when learning to play the Scottish bagpipe. The most frequent topics are river pastimes such as fishing and boating and the difficulties they present to the inexperienced and unwary.
The book includes classic comedy set-pieces, such as the story of two drunken men who slide into the same bed in the dark, the plaster of paris trout in chapter 17 and the "Irish stew" in chapter 14 - made by mixing most of the leftovers in the party's food hamper:
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.—Chapter XIV
Reception and history 
One might have imagined … that the British Empire was in danger. … The Standard spoke of me as a menace to English letters; and The Morning Post as an example of the sad results to be expected from the over-education of the lower orders. … I think I may claim to have been, for the first twenty years of my career, the best abused author in England.—Jerome K Jerome, My Life and Times (1926)
The reception by critics varied between lukewarm and hostile. The use of slang was condemned as "vulgar" and the book was derided as written to appeal to " 'Arrys and 'Arriets" - then common sneering terms for working-class Londoners who dropped their Hs when speaking. Punch magazine dubbed Jerome " 'Arry K. 'Arry". Modern commentators have praised the humour, but criticized the book's unevenness as the humorous sections are interspersed with more serious passages written in a sentimental, sometimes purple, style.
Yet the book sold in huge numbers. "I pay Jerome so much in royalties," the publisher told a friend, "I cannot imagine what becomes of all the copies of that book I issue. I often think the public must eat them." The first edition was published in August 1889 and serialised in the popular magazine Home Chimes in the same year.[Note 3] The first edition remained in print from 1889 until March 1909, when the second edition was issued. During that time, 202,000 copies were sold. Jerome states in the author's introduction to the 1909 second edition, he'd been told another million copies had been sold in America by pirate printers. The book was translated into many languages. The Russian edition was particularly successful and became a standard school textbook. Jerome later complained in a letter to The Times of Russian books not written by him, published under his name in order to benefit from his success. Since its publication, Three Men in a Boat has never been out of print. It continues to be popular to the current day, with The Guardian ranking it #33 on The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time in 2003, and Esquire ranking it #2 in the 50 Funniest Books Ever in 2009. in 2003, the book was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
The river trip is easy to re-create, following the detailed description, and this is sometimes done by fans of the book. Much of the route remains unchanged. For example, all the pubs and inns named are still open.[Note 4] A re-creation in 1993 by poet Kim Taplin and companions resulted in the travelogue Three Women in a Boat  The book was also referenced in the 1956 parody novel on mountaineering, The Ascent of Rum Doodle, where the head porter Bing is said to spend "much of his leisure immersed in a Yogistani translation of Three men in a boat". In Have Space Suit—Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein, the main character's father is an obsessive fan of the book, and spends much of his spare time repeatedly re-reading it.
Science-fiction author Connie Willis paid tribute to Jerome's novel in her own 1997 Hugo Award-winning book To Say Nothing of the Dog. Her time-travelling protagonist also takes an ill-fated voyage on the Thames with two humans and a dog as companions, and encounters George, Harris, 'J' and Montmorency. The title of Willis' novel refers to the full title of the original book, "Three Men in a Boat - To Say Nothing of the Dog!". This story ends telling that one should be witty as well as should have a sense of humour where necessary
Film and television 
The story has been turned into several films.
- Three Men in a Boat, a 1920 film with Lionelle Howard as J., H. Manning Haynes as Harris and Johnny Butt as George.
- Three Men in a Boat a 1933 film with William Austin, Edmund Breon, and Billy Milton
- Three Men in a Boat a 1956 film with David Tomlinson as J., Jimmy Edwards as Harris and Laurence Harvey as George.
- Drei Mann in einem Boot, a 1961 German film is very loosely based on the book.
- In 1975, the BBC produced a version for television adapted by Tom Stoppard, with Tim Curry as J., Michael Palin as Harris, and Stephen Moore as George.
- Troye v lodke, ne schitaya sobaki (Russian: Трое в лодке, не считая собаки), Three in a boat, not including the dog, a 1979, musical comedy filmed by Soviet television, with Andrei Mironov as J., Aleksandr Shirvindt as Harris and Mikhail Derzhavin as George.
An episode of the Victorian detective show Cribb is based on the book.
In 2005 the comedians Griff Rhys Jones, Dara Ó Briain, and Rory McGrath embarked on a recreation of the novel for what was to become a regular yearly BBC TV series, Three Men in a Boat. After their first expedition along the Thames from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford, recreating the original novel, the trio embarked on a trip from London to the Isle of Wight in Jones's yacht where they would race her against her sister yacht. The following year Three Men in More Than One Boat saw the three borrowing, stealing and hitchhiking on numerous vessels to make their way from Plymouth to the Isles of Scilly. For their 2009 adventure, the trio take to the waterways of Ireland, making their way from Dublin to Limerick with Dara's Greyhound Snip Nua, and for 2010 it's Three Men Go To Scotland.
A sculpture of a stylised boat was created in 1999 to commemorate Three Men in a Boat on the Millennium Green in New Southgate, where the author lived as a child. In 2012 a mosaic of a dog's head was put onto the same Green to commemorate Montmorency from the book.
See also 
- Locks on the River Thames
- Thames meander, a long-distance journey over all or part of the River Thames
- The Penguin edition punctuates the title differently: Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog!
- The boat is called a double sculling skiff in the book — that is, a boat propelled by two people, using two oars each. A camping skiff is a boat that with an easily erectable canvas conver, that effectively makes it a floating tent for overnight use.
- Home Chimes was published 1884-1894 by Richard Willoughby, London, price 1/-. It was a (first weekly, then monthly) miscellany, mostly fiction by little-known authors. See Magazine Data File
- The Blue Posts, 81 Newman Street, London;The Royal Stag and the Manor House at Datchet; The Crown at Marlow; The George and Dragon at Wargrave; The Bull at Sonning; The Swan at Pangbourne; The Bull at Streatley; and The Barley Mow at Clifton Hampden. The Bells of Ousley at Old Windsor still exists, but the building was demolished and rebuilt in 1936. It is now part of the Harvester chain.
- Jeremy Lewis' introduction to the Penguin edition.
- Geoffrey Harvey (1998). "Introduction", Oxford World's Classics edition of Three Men in a Boat; Three Men on the Bummel.
- Jerome, Jerome (1926). My Life and Times. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-7195-4089-5.
- Jerome, Jerome (1982). "Afterward". Three Men in a Boat, Annotated and Introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-907516-08-4.
- Jerome, Jerome (1909). "Publisher's Introduction". Three Men in a Boat (2nd ed.). Bristol: J W Arrowsmith. ISBN 0-9548401-7-8.
- Jerome, Jerome (1909). "Author's Introduction". Three Men in a Boat (2nd ed.). Bristol: J W Arrowsmith. ISBN 0-9548401-7-8.
- Jerome, Jerome (July 8, 1902). "Literary Piracy in Russia". The Times (36814). p. 4
- "50 Funniest books". Esquire (magazine). March 2009. p. 142
- "BBC - The Big Read". BBC. April 2003, Retrieved 11 November 2012
- Taplin, Kim (1993). Three Women in a Boat. Impact Books. ISBN 1-874687-13-7.
- Drei Mann in einem Boot at the Internet Movie Database
- Jerome, Jeromee K. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog). Bristol: Arrowsmith, 1889.
- Jerome, Jerome K. Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog! Wordsworth Classics. ISBN 1-85326-051-7, with Boulter’s Lock by Edward John Gregory on the cover, 1993.
- Jerome, Jerome K., Jeremy Lewis. Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog! and Three Men on the Bummel. Penguin classics. London: Penguin Books, 1999. ISBN 0-14-0437509
- Three Men in a Boat at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions color illustrated)
- Three Men in a Boat at Project Gutenberg (plain text; transcribed from the 1889 J. W. Arrowsmith edition by David Price, Second proof by Margaret Price.)
- Three Men in a Boat, audiobook via Librivox
- Three Men in a Boat (illustrated epub)
- IMDb Search
- Fly the journey yourself along the Thames, via Google Earth