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Three Men In A Boat ranks as one of the most amusing and agreeable books in the English language. Written soon after Jerome's marriage, it bubbles over with the happiness he felt. Rather than recording one particular trip, the story combines many boating excursions which Jerome had made with his friends. The three men round on each other when things go wrong but nothing serious mars the essentially sunny, idyllic nature of the book. The beautiful countryside through which its heroes pass is poetically described. 1. EXPEDITION PLANS. George, Harris, and J. are feeling seedy. Comparing symptoms, they realise that each of them is suffering from a whole range of aliments, J. being particularly concerned about his liver. They decide that what they need is a complete break. After discussing the alternatives, they decide on a Thames boating trip and begin to make plans. They argue about what to take and what not to take; George suggests that they need not take many clothes as they will be able to wash them in the Thames. 2. DEPARTURE. Unable to agree on what food to take with them, the Three men amass a mountain of supplies which J. volunteers to pack. To his dismay, the others leave him to it. After repeatedly having to repack to put in his boots or find his toothbrush, J. Hands over to George and Harris. Aided by Montmorency the dog, they proceed to make an even worse mess of it. The Three Men go to bed intent on an early start. Despites this, their landlady, Mrs Poppets, has to wake them at nine o' clock. George goes to work for the morning and Harris and J. reach Waterloo Station at eleven. They are unable to find a train for Kingston until they tip a driver to go that way instead of taking the mail to Exeter. 3. EMBARKATION. The boat is waiting and they set off, Harris rowing, J. steering and daydreaming - until they crash into the bank. As they pass Hampton court, J. recalls how Harris once led a party endlessly round and round its maze until rescued by an attendant. Stopping for lunch, they are accused of trespassing but are undeterred. At Weybridge, they rendezvous with George, who has brought a surprise: a banjo, which he is planning to learn to play. 4. EVENING ON THE WATER. Unwillingly, George starts towing and J. expounds on the delights he has experienced on other boating trips when being towed by girls; how it takes three girls to tow one boat. Finally evening draws in, the Three Men put up their boat's cover - discovering this is something which takes them a great deal longer than expected - and make supper. Afterwards, filled with good food and goodwill, they relax. But the boat makes a hard bed for the night and the wind is found to be disturbing. J. wakes before dawn to commune poetically with nature. 5. THE OPEN THAMES. In the grey chill of morning, the Three Men's earlier enthusiasm for a quick dip evaporates. George and Harris stay in the boat but J. creeps out on a branch to wash. Suddenly he falls in, much impressing the others, who think he is taking a swim. At lunch, unable to find a tin opener, they attempt to open a tin of pineapple with pocket-knife, scissors, a stone and finally the mast. All efforts fail and they throw the unopened tin into the Thames. Then, blessed by a favourable wind, they hoist sail and glide serenely on, straight into a punt of fishermen. 6. MARLOW AND BEYOND. At Marlow, J.'s fox-terrier Montmorency pursues a large tom cat. Instead of fleeing frantically, the cat turns round and coolly confronts him. Stunned, Montmorency backs down and gives up chasing cats for good. Meanwhile, the Three Men's shopping expedition grows until a whole army of grocery-carriers arrives at the little boat with their provisions. That evening they make Irish stew, adding everything they can find, including salmon and eggs. This upsets Harris's stomach and he stays behind while the others go to the pub. Returning in the rain, George and J. almost fail to find the boat. 7. OXFORD. J. is convinced he is doing more work than the others; oddly, the others think just the opposite. A friend's steam launch gives the boat a very useful tow from Reading to Streatley. Here the Three Men stay for two days and have their clothes professionally washed. They pay three times the normal price, as on George's advice they have tried washing their clothes on the river with disastrous results. Passing through a lock, J. recalls a time when they were nearly drowned while posing for a photograph, the boat's nose getting caught under the lock gate without their noticing. Finally, the Three Men reach their goal - Oxford. 8. THREE MEN OUT OF A BOAT. At Oxford Montmorency has plenty of good fights, and after two days the Three Men turn for home. The weather has turned too, with steady rain that chills them through and through. A cold supper fails to restore them and George's attempts at banjo playing make things a great deal worse. They recall the delight of London and remember there is a convenient train. Shamefacedly, they leave the boat and take a train back, seeing a show at the Alhambra and dining at the Bistro, happy to be out of a boatShow more
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