The dictionary defines an anecdote as “a short, entertaining account of some happening, usually personal or biographical.” Three Men in a Boat is told in anecdotal style, with one story following another. The challenge is to find ones that are short, since the narrator tends to ramble. Let’s confine our search to anecdotes that he shares from the past or from someone else, and not events as they develop on the current river trip.
One such story arises in Chapter IV, when the friends consider whether or not to take cheese along on the boat now. J. is reminded of a time when another friend asked him to take care of some cheeses for him. They had a strong smell; and everywhere J. went, the odor followed him. After he finally delivered the cheeses to his friend, he too decided that they smelled too much. He had to bury them on a beach to get rid of them.
George tells a story about boat tow lines in Chapter IX. On a previous trip, he and some friends came upon a young couple who were walking along the tow path dragging a rope behind them. But whatever boat they had thought they were pulling was nowhere in sight. The two were so lost in conversation that they hadn’t paid attention to the boat. So George and his friends hitched their craft to the couple’s line, allowing them to pull them along. When the young people finally turned around and saw a boat behind them with strangers in it, the woman exclaimed, “Oh Henry, then where is auntie?”