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Three Men in a Boat Chapter 1 Summary

Three friends, George, Harris and the author—referred to as ‘J’—decide that they are overworked and agree upon a week’s holiday. They decide to go on a boating trip, down the river Thames.

The narrative opens with the author discussing his imagined ailments with his friends George and William Samuel Harris. While George and Harris both claimed to have spells of giddiness, the author believed that his liver was out of order. He then shared a humorous anecdote, describing his visit to the British Museum, where he read a medical text and came to the conclusion that he had the symptoms of all known diseases, except ‘Housemaid’s Knee’.

His doctor advised him to eat and drink well, walk every morning and sleep early every night. The author then described how similar symptoms had been termed as laziness when he was a child which, rather than with medicines, was treated most successfully by beatings. The three friends discussed their respective diseases until supper. Further discussion on the matter made them decide that their conditions were caused by overwork. They agreed that they needed rest and a change of scene.

When Harris suggested a sea trip, the author objected. He cited several stories of people who, once aboard a ship, were seasick for almost a week. By the time they managed to overcome their seasickness, it was time to return to land. He also examined the strange manner in which people who were seasick seemed to completely forget this fact when they reached dry land. In the end, George suggested going up the river in a boat. The author and Harris were in favour of this plan, but Montmorency, the author’s dog, did not seem to like the plan much.