Jerome K. Jerome •
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) •
This story follows George, Harris, and Jerome as they take a punting holiday on the Thames, a popular diversion in Victorian times. The trio suffers the usual mishaps—falling in the river, getting lost in the Hampton Court maze, forgetting the mustard. But Jerome’s frequent asides and dry observations (“When George is hanged Harris will be the worst packer in this world”) elevate their litany of woes to rich comedy.
The dog in question (whatever possessed them to take a dog on a boating trip?) is Montmorency, a fox terrier whose angelic expression “has been known to bring the tears into the eyes of pious old ladies.” After the dog has established himself as a street fighter, chicken thief, and cat murderer, Jerome revises his opinion of Montmorency’s saintliness.
One digression introduces Uncle Podger. You have an Uncle Podger in your life too; you’ll recognize him as soon as you read about him hanging a picture.
“You never saw such a commotion up and down a house in all your life, as when my Uncle Podger undertook to do a job.” Three pages later, after he has rounded up the entire household to help him, dropped the picture, broken the glass, cut himself, lost the nails, measured wrong, smashed his thumb, dropped the hammer on someone’s toes, knocked a hole in the plaster, and fallen on the piano, “Aunt Maria would say that she would not allow the children to stand round and listen to such language.” Had Uncle Podger been on the boat, they would all surely have drowned.
Only one of Jerome’s many books has remained continuously afloat for more than a century, and it’s Three Men.
Not to mention the damn dog.