Jerome Klapka Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927) was an English writer and humorist, best known for the comic travelogue Three Men in a Boat. Published in 1889, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)[Note 1] is a humorous account by English writer Jerome K. Jerome of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford.
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 in the 1880s by the craze for boating as a leisure activity.
Jerome sat down to write Three Men in a Boat as soon as the couple returned from their honeymoon. In the novel, his wife was replaced by his longtime friends George Wingrave (George) and Carl Hentschel (Harris). This allowed him to create comic (and non-sentimental) situations which were nonetheless intertwined with the history of the Thames region. The book, published in 1889, became an instant success and is still in print. In its first twenty years alone, the book sold over a million copies worldwide. Its popularity was such that the number of registered Thames boats went up fifty percent in the year following its publication, and it contributed significantly to the Thames becoming a tourist attraction.
With the financial security provided by the sales of the book, Jerome was able to dedicate all of his time to writing. He wrote a number of plays, essays and novels, but was never able to recapture the success of Three Men in a Boat.
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 aspects about Three Men in a Boat is how undated it appears to modern readers — the jokes seem fresh and witty even today.
The book has been adapted to movies, TV and radio shows, stage plays, and even a musical. Its writing style influenced many humorists and satirists in England and elsewhere.
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, followed by sequels.
A sculpture of a stylized 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.
Three Men in a Boat is well known in India (for example http://www.cisce.org/syllabus.htm), Russia and Pakistan, because the book or excerpts from it had been required reading in public schools.
- 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.
- 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.