Three Men in a Boat
Jerome K. Jerome
7:58 h
Level 4
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), published in 1889, is a humorous account by English writer Jerome K. Jerome of a two-week boating holiday on the Thames from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford and back to Kingston. 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 have been praised as fresh and witty.

Three Men in a Boat

(to Say Nothing of the Dog)

Jerome K. Jerome


The chief beauty of this book lies not so much in itsliterary style, or in the extent and usefulness of theinformation it conveys, as in its simpletruthfulness. Its pages form the record of eventsthat really happened. All that has been done is tocolour them; and, for this, no extra chargehas been made. George and Harris and Montmorency arenot poetic ideals, but things of flesh andblood — especially George, who weighs about twelvestone. Other works may excel this in depth of thoughtand knowledge of human nature: other books may rival it inoriginality and size; but, for hopeless andincurable veracity, nothing yet discovered can surpassit. This, more than all its other charms,will, it is felt, make the volume precious inthe eye of the earnest reader; and will lend additionalweight to the lesson that the story teaches.

London, August, 1889.

Chapter I

Three invalids. — Sufferings of George andHarris. — A victim to one hundred and seven fatalmaladies. — Useful prescriptions. — Cure for livercomplaint in children. — We agree that we are overworked, andneed rest. — A week on the rolling deep? — Georgesuggests the River. — Montmorency lodges anobjection. — Original motion carried by majority of three toone.

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 amedical point of view I mean, of course.

We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervousabout it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits ofgiddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he wasdoing; and then George said that he had fits of giddinesstoo, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, itwas my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liverthat was out of order, because I had just been reading a patentliver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptomsby 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 patentmedicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusionthat I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealtwith in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems inevery case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that Ihave 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 thelistlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. Icame to typhoid fever — read the symptoms — discoveredthat I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months withoutknowing it — wondered what else I had got; turned up St.Vitus’s Dance — found, as I expected, that I had thattoo, — began to get interested in my case, and determined tosift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically — readup ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that theacute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in amodified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might livefor years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; anddiphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I ploddedconscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the onlymalady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’sknee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow tobe a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I gothousemaid’s knee? Why this invidiousreservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelingsprevailed. I reflected that I had every other known maladyin the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined todo without housemaid’s knee. Gout, in its mostmalignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my beingaware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with fromboyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so Iconcluded there was nothing else the matter with me.

I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case Imust be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition Ishould be to a class! Students would have no need to“walk the hospitals,” if they had me. I was ahospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk roundme, and, after that, take their diploma.