THREE MEN IN A BOAT. Annotated edition by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green. Pavilion Books, 1982.

 

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome was first published in 1889, at a time when boating on the Thames had acquired unprecedented popularity.  It was originally intended to be nothing more than an historical and descriptive account of the river the author had known and boated upon for so many years.

But Jerome was always a humorist at heart, and the tale is best remembered for such hilarious incidents as packing for the trip, trying to open the tin of pineapple,  Harris’s battle with the swans, and the afternoon spent getting lost in Hampton Court Maze.

Yet, for all that, the book is packed with detail and information concerning the places the three young men and the dog Montmorency visited, together with any number of references to books, songs, newspapers, shows and all sorts of contemporary fads and fashions.

What was the Great Coram Street murder mystery, referred to in Chapter Five?  Would the white china dog, described in Chapter Seven, really have become as valuable in time as Jerome thought it would?  And what, in the same chapter, was the tragic scandal that lay behind Jerome’s joke about cholera?

The answers to these and several score of similar questions will be found in this, the first annotated edition of, perhaps, the classic of English humour.

In their annotations of such intriguing  subjects as the popularity of the banjo, parasols and all things Japanese, macintoshes and Gladstone bags, not to mention J.M.Barrie and W.H.Smith M.P., Green and Matthew add to the undisputed pleasure or reading the original novel by providing a virtual social history of the late 19th century.

The text is based on the first edition of Three Men in a Boat, which was illustrated with charming sketches by A. Frederics (the author’s own choice of illustrator) whose drawings are reproduced, together with numerous photographs, prints and cartoons that are contemporary to the period.

Reviews:

 

A welcome present to lovers of Jerome, of poor, never existing Montmorency, and .... of immortal humour. George Mikes, Sunday Telegraph

 

It is English humour, but somehow there is some universal appeal in the three duffers rowing up the river, trying to rough it and get back to nature, and being unable to even open a tin of pineapple chunks. Stanley Reynolds, Punch

 

It looks a treasure and will be a mine for the social historian. Margot Lawrence, Daily Telegraph

 

This is a remarkable book... It is a fascinating work of eclectic scholarship by two experts on late Victorian social history with a nicely concealed sense of humour. Tom Sharpe, Evening Standard

 

Nostalgic Victorian classic on 100th anniversary of first publication with dated references lovingly explained and illustrated. The Times

 

This edition is superbly illustrated, and the annotation which explains Jerome's times and the physical attributes of his stage setting is lively as well as detailed. Christopher Dodd, The Guardian

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