Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) Summary

Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) Summary

Three ailing men (J., Harris, and George) decide to take a boat trip up the Thames River. Each man has been suffering from half-imagined diseases, and they all think they need a good vacation. Together, they rent a boat, despite their inexperience with sailing. They decide to cook all their meals themselves, though they have no culinary skills, and hire a woman to do their washing, though she charges them triple the rate. One day, they stop at inn where the owner proudly displays a trout he claims to have caught and stuffed in his youth. When George accidentally breaks the glass display case, he discovers the trout is a fake. Finally, the men abandon their boat trip and visit the Alhambra. They're glad to be back on land.


(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

J., Harris, and George were feeling seedy. They sat around idly in J.’s room discussing their ailments. J., especially, was prone to ailments. Once he had gone through a medical book and discovered that he had all the symptoms of typhoid, cholera, and zymosis; in fact, he had all the ills described except housemaid’s knee.

He visited a doctor, intent on giving him practice in diagnosis. After the examination, the doctor gave him a prescription for a pound of beefsteak and a pint of bitter beer every six hours. The prescription must have been efficacious; J. was still alive.

The three friends decided they needed a complete change and rest. Various possibilities were suggested, including a sea voyage. J. knew from experience that nearly everyone became sick on sea voyages. He had a friend who paid two pounds and a half in advance for his board during a week’s trip. By the end of the week, he had eaten so little that the steward had at least two pounds clear. A sea voyage was out. As a compromise, they decided on a boat trip up the Thames to Oxford. Montmorency was opposed to the idea but was outvoted.

They were to start from Kingston. George, who had to work until two on Saturdays, would join them at Chertsey. They discussed sleeping and eating arrangements. Although Harris was doubtful, they agreed to sleep in the boat and cook their own meals. Harris had no poetry in his soul; life in the raw had no appeal for him, for he was the type who always knew the best pub in every town in England.

In making their grocery list, J. remembered the time he was in Liverpool. A friend asked him if he would take two cheeses back with him on the train to London. J. willingly agreed. The train was crowded, and he found a seat in a full compartment. One by one, the others left, overpowered by the odor, and J. had the compartment to himself all the way to London. After he delivered the cheeses to his friend’s wife, she promptly moved into a hotel until her husband could get home. He had to bury them on a deserted beach. That experience showed how careful one should be in selecting provisions.

Although Harris and J. were to get an early start, they overslept. It was well after nine before they got all of their rugs and hampers together. Then they could not get a cab. They stood on the sidewalk, attracting a curious crowd of hangers-on who made unkind remarks about their many bundles. At Waterloo, no one could tell them the platform from which their train would leave. Even the district superintendent was vague. They solved the problem by bribing the engineer of a waiting train to take them to Kingston. The engineer agreed because he had no idea where his train was supposed to go anyway. At last, the Exeter mail train took them to Kingston.

Harris had an experience once in finding his way. He bought a map of Hampton Court maze. It looked simple on the map to visit the place and get out again. A number of innocent bystanders trusted him and his map to their sorrow. The worst of it was that the keeper on duty was new and had little idea how to get out. They all waited hours for the old keeper to come back on duty.


(The entire section is 1299 words.)