Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends
George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to
a 'T'. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that
lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather-forecasts and tins of
pineapple chunks – not to mention the devastation left in the wake of
J.'s small fox-terrier Montmorency.
About The Author
Jerome Klapka Jerome (1859 – 1927), was born in Walsall and moved to London with his family when he was still a young boy. His unusual middle name was from a Hungarian friend of his father. Jerome left school at fourteen, after his the death of his mother. This was not unusual in those days in poor families and Jerome's family was certainly poor. Jerome started work as a railway clerk but had an artistic nature and soon spent time acting with various theatre companies – as well as reading in the British Museum library. His stage experiences led to his first book On the Stage – and Off and to his determination to make a living as a writer. Three Men in a Boat, published in 1889, brought him success and worldwide fame. The critics didn't like Jerome's humour and easy-going style but the public did. The book was a huge bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. Sales of the American edition reached a million copies, even though it was being sold there illegally! The qualities the critics disliked have now made the book a timeless classic.
Three Men in a Boat is a fictional, and hugely exaggerated, version of an actual boat trip up the River Thames that Jerome took with two friends. After this book's success Jerome worked as a novelist, playwright and editor. He made lecture tours, especially in the USA and caused a scandal by publicly criticising the racism in the Southern States. Three Men in a Boat was his only best-seller. It was so popular in Germany that clubs were started for people to make their own boating trips in the style of the trip taken by Jerome and his friends.
And don't stuﬀ up your head with things you don't
I followed the directions, with the happy result – speaking for myself – that my life was preserved, and is still going on.
In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being 'a general disinclination to work of any kind'.
What I suﬀer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.
'Why, you skulking little devil, you,' they would say, 'get up and do something for your living, can't you?' – not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
And they didn't give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And, strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me – for the time being. I have known one clump on the head have more eﬀect upon my liver, and make me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.
You know, it often is so – those simple, old-fashioned remedies are sometimes more eﬃcacious than all the dispensary stuﬀ.
We sat there for half an hour, describing to each other our maladies. I explained to George and William Harris how I felt when I got up in the morning, and William Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed; and George stood on the hearth-rug, and gave us a clever and powerful piece of acting, illustrative of how he felt in the night.
George fancies he is ill: but there's never anything really the matter with him, you know.
At this point, Mrs Poppets knocked at the door to know if we were ready for supper. We smiled sadly at one another, and said we supposed we had better try to swallow a bit. Harris said a little something in one's stomach often kept the disease in check; and Mrs Poppets brought the tray in, and we drew up to the table, and toyed with a little steak and onions, and some rhubarb tart.
I must have been very weak at the time; because I know, after the ﬁrst half-hour or so, I seemed to take no interest whatever in my food – an unusual thing for me – and I didn't want any cheese.
This duty done, we reﬁlled our glasses, lit our pipes, and resumed the discussion upon our state of health. What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it – whatever it was – had been brought on by overwork.
'What we want is rest,' said Harris.
'Rest and a complete change,' said George. 'The overstrain upon our brains has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.'
George has a cousin who is usually described in the charge-sheet as a medical student, so that he naturally has a somewhat familyphysicianary way of putting things.
I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes – some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world – some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliﬀs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-oﬀ and faint.
Harris said he thought it would be humpy. He said he knew the sort of place I meant; where everybody went to bed at eight o'clock, and you couldn't get a Referee¹ for love or money, and had to walk ten miles to get your baccy.
'No,' said Harris, 'if you want rest and change, you can't beat a sea trip.'
I objected to the sea trip strongly. A sea trip does you good when you are going to have a couple of months of it, but, for a week, it is wicked.
You start on Monday with the idea implanted in your bosom that you are going to enjoy yourself. You wave an airy adieu to the boys on shore, light your biggest pipe, and swagger about the deck as if you were Captain Cook, Sir Francis Drake, and Christopher Columbus all rolled into one. On Tuesday, you wish you hadn't come. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, you wish you were dead. On Saturday you are able to swallow a little beef tea, and to sit up on deck, and answer with a wan, sweet smile when kind-hearted people ask how you feel now. On Sunday, you begin to walk again, and take solid food. And on Monday morning, as, with your bag and umbrella in your hand, you stand by the gunwale, waiting to step ashore, you begin to thoroughly like it.
I remember my brother-in-law going for a short sea trip once for the beneﬁt of his health. He took a return berth from London to Liverpool; and when he got to Liverpool, the only thing he was anxious about was to sell that return ticket.
It wasoﬀered round the town at a tremendous reduction, so I am told; and was eventually sold for eighteenpence to a bilious-looking youth who had just been advised by his medical men to go to the seaside, and take exercise.
'Seaside!' said my brother-in-law, pressing the ticket aﬀectionately into his hand: 'why, you'll have enough to last you a lifetime; and as for exercise! why, you'll get more exercise, sitting down on that ship, than you would turning somersaults on dry land.'
He himself – my brother-in-law – came back by train. He said the North-Western Railway was healthy enough for him.
Another fellow I knew went for a week's voyage round the coast, and, before they started, the steward came to him to ask whether he would pay for each meal as he had it, or arrange beforehand for the whole series.
The steward recommended the latter course, as it would come so much cheaper. He said they would do him for the whole week at two-pounds-ﬁve. He said for breakfast there would be ﬁsh, followed by a grill. Lunch was at one, and consisted of four courses. Dinner at six – soup, ﬁsh, entre´e, joint, poultry, salad, sweets, cheese, and dessert. And a light meat supper at ten.
My friend thought he would close on the two-pounds-ﬁve job (he is a hearty eater), and did so.
Lunch came just astheywere oﬀ Sheerness. Hedidn't feel sohungry as he thought he should, and so contented himself with a bit of boiled beef, andsome strawberries andcream. Hepondereda gooddealduring the afternoon, and at one time it seemed to him that he had been eating nothing but boiled beef for weeks, and at other times it seemed that he must have been living on strawberries and cream for years.
Neither the beef nor the strawberries and cream seemed happy, either – seemed discontented like.
Atsix,theycameandtoldhimdinnerwasready.Theannouncement aroused no enthusiasm within him, but he felt that there was some of that two-pounds-ﬁve to be worked oﬀ, and he held on to ropes and things and went down. A pleasant odour of onions and hot ham, mingled with fried ﬁsh and greens, greeted him at the bottom of the ladder; and then the steward came up with an oily smile, and said:
'What can I get you, sir?'
'Get me out of this,' was the feeble reply.
And they ran him up quick, and propped him up, over to leeward, and left him.
For the next four days he lived a simple and blameless life on thin Captain's biscuits (I mean that the biscuits were thin, not the captain) and soda-water; but, towards Saturday, he got uppish, and went in for weak tea and dry toast, and on Monday he was gorging himself on chicken broth. He left the ship on Tuesday, and as it steamed away from the landing-stage he gazed after it regretfully.
'There she goes,' he said, 'there she goes, with two pounds' worth of food on board that belongs to me, and that I haven't had.'
He said that if they had given him another day he thought he could have put it straight.
So I set my face against the sea trip. Not, as I explained, upon my own account. I was never queer. But I was afraid for George. George said he should be all right, and would rather like it, but he would advise Harris and me not to think of it, as he felt sure we should both be ill. Harris said that, to himself, it was always a mystery how people managed to get sick at sea – said he thought people must do it on purpose, from aﬀectation – said he had often wished to be, but had never been able.
Then he told us anecdotes of how he had gone across the Channel when it was so rough that the passengers had to be tied into their berths, and he and the captain were the only two living souls on board who were not ill. Sometimes it was he and the second mate who were not ill; but it was generally he and one other man. If not he and another man, then it was he by himself.
It is a curious fact, but nobody ever is sea-sick – on land. At sea, you come across plenty of people very bad indeed, whole boat-loads of them; but I never met a man yet, on land, who had ever known at all what it was to be sea-sick. Where the thousands upon thousands of bad sailors that swarm in every ship hide themselves when they are on land is a mystery.
If most men were like a fellow I saw on the Yarmouth boat one day, I could account for the seeming enigma easily enough. It was just oﬀ Southend Pier, I recollect, and he was leaning out through one of the port-holes in a very dangerous position. I went up to him to try and save him.
'Hi! come further in,' I said, shaking him by the shoulder. 'You'll be overboard.'
'Oh my! I wish I was,' was the only answer I could get; and there I had to leave him.
Three weeks afterwards, I met him in the coﬀee-room of a Bath hotel, talking about his voyages, and explaining, with enthusiasm, how he loved the sea.
'Good sailor!' he replied in answer to a mild young man's envious query, 'well I did feel a little queer once, I confess. It was oﬀ Cape Horn. The vessel was wrecked the next morning.'
'Weren't you a little shaky by Southend Pier one day, and wanted to be thrown overboard?'
'Southend Pier!' he replied, with a puzzled expression.
'Yes; going down to Yarmouth, last Friday three weeks.'
'Oh, ah – yes,' he answered, brightening up; 'I remember now. I did have a headache that afternoon. It was the pickles, you know. They were the most disgraceful pickles I ever tasted in a respectable boat. Did you have any?'
For myself, I have discovered an excellent preventive against sea-sickness, in balancing myself. You stand in the centre of the deck, and, as the ship heaves and pitches, you move your body about, so as to keep it always straight. When the front of the ship rises, you lean forward, till the deck almost touches your nose; and when its back end gets up, you lean backwards. This is all very well for an hour or two; but you can't balance yourself for a week.
'Let's go up the river.'
He said we should have fresh air, exercise, and quiet; the constant change of scene would occupy our minds (including what there was of Harris's); and the hard work would give us a good appetite, and make us sleep well.
Harris said he didn't think George ought to do anything that would have a tendency to make him sleepier than he always was, as it might be dangerous. He said he didn't very well understand how George was going to sleep any more than he did now, seeing that there were only twenty-four hours in each day, summer and winter alike; but thought that if he did sleep any more he might just as well be dead, and so save his board and lodging.
Harris said, however, that the river would suit him to a 'T'. I don't know what a 'T' is (except a sixpenny one, which includes bread-and-butter and cake ad lib., and is cheap at the price, if you haven't had any dinner). It seems to suit everybody, however, which is greatly to its credit.
It suited me to a 'T', too, and Harris and I both said it was a good idea of George's and we said it in a tone that seemed to somehow imply that we were surprised that George should have come out so sensible.
The only one who was not struck with the suggestion was Montmorency. He never did care for the river, did Montmorency.
'It's all very well for you fellows,' he says; 'you like it, but I don't. There's nothing for me to do. Scenery is not in my line, and I don't smoke. If I see a rat, you won't stop; and if I go to sleep, you get fooling about with the boat, and slop me overboard. If you ask me, I call the whole thing bally foolishness.'
We were three to one, however, and the motion was carried.
Series: Popular Penguins
Number Of Pages: 178
Published: 28th June 2010
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 12.0 x 1.6
Weight (kg): 0.13
Edition Number: 1