We have decided to create the most comprehensive English Summary that will help students with learning and understanding.
Three Men in a Boat Summary Jerome K. Jerome
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) was first published in 1889. It is a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames, undertaken by the author and his two friends, between Kingston and Oxford and back. This was a boating holiday typical at the time when commercial boating traffic had died out and boating, as an activity of leisure, was popular.
The book was intended to be a serious travel guide and, to that end, has several passages about the local history of the places along the route. However, the light, humorous tone of writing and the author’s combination of the serious and the comical, served to increase the scope of the book beyond a mere travelogue. The direct, conversational style of writing and the flawed and multifaceted characters make it easy for a reader to identify with the protagonists, and their varied experiences, even today.
The three men of the book were based upon the author himself, and two of his actual friends, George Wingrave and Carl Hentschel (Harris in the book). The dog Montmorency was entirely made up, but the description of his antics is as real and believable as the other parts of the book.
Although most of the book takes place on the river, the expedition begins in central London, with a train journey from the Waterloo station to Kingston-upon-Thames. It begins with the narrator, J and his friends, sitting at home, tired of their dull lives. They decide they need a break, not just to have fun, but to rid themselves of the chronic case of hypochondria that they seem to have contracted. Eventually, they decide to go boating on the Thames. After much discussion, the three friends (who are, incidentally, all terrible boatmen) pack their supplies amidst great confusion and embark on their holiday, along with J’s hurricane of a dog, Montmorency. Along the journey, the writer adds different amusing incidents and stories from his memory, without straying from the main plot.
The story is an entertaining narrative of the incidents that occur during the trip; anecdotes on various topics such as the unreliability of weather forecasts; loosely connected digressions as that of J’s uncle’s inability to hang pictures; descriptive pieces on the places that they pass and stop at, along the memorable journey.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter Wise Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 1 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 2 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 3 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 4 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 5 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 6 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 7 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 8 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 9 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 10 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 11 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 12 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 13 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 14 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 15 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 16 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 17 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 18 Summary
- Three Men in a Boat Chapter 19 Summary
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.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 2 Summary
The pros and cons of camping are discussed by the three, and more is told about the author’s dog, Montmorency, who is to accompany them on this trip.
The three friends studied maps to plan their trip and decided to set out on their holiday the following Saturday. The author and Harris would take the boat from Kingston to Chertsey, where George, who worked in a bank, would meet them in the afternoon. They then discussed the relative benefits of camping out versus sleeping at inns. Just as the author painted an ideal picture of camping out, Harris interrupted him by asking what they would do if it rained. This led the author to paint a picture of the miseries of camping out in the rain, from the difficulties of setting up a tent in the rain, to having rain soak into all the camping supplies.
It was finally decided that they would camp out on fine nights and sleep in inns or hotels on rainy nights. Montmorency, the dog seemed to be pleased with this arrangement as well. Montmorency was a small fox terrier. When the author had first found the dog, he did not think it would survive long. However, the dog proved the author wrong and turned out to be an adventurous and lively creature, shoehorning himself into hustle and bustle.
Once the matter of camping was decided upon, the three began to argue about the things to be taken along on the trip. However, Harris suggested that they should discuss it the next day and all three went out for a drink.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 3 Summary
Discussions on what they required for their trip. Reaching the common consensus to list only things they could not do without. The next morning, the three friends continued to plan their trip. The author described Harris’ idea of ‘working’ as that of taking a burden and putting it on other people’s backs. He then likened Harris’ style of working to that of his Uncle Podger trying to put up a picture on the wall. He would get the entire household involved in the simple task of hammering a nail in the wall to hang up a picture and still not manage to do a good job.
When they finally began to make a list, they considered so many things to be essential that it would be impossible to fit them all on the boat. The author briefly commented on the common tendency to overload a boat (or indeed, their lives) with unnecessary things. Then, George suggested that instead of listing everything they could use, they should instead make a list of all the things they could not do without.
George suggested taking a boat with a cover instead of a tent. They then listed a few essentials including tooth powder, rugs and towels. The author then remarked that no matter how many arrangements people make for bathing at the river, they never really bathe much when they are there. He also shared his experience of a morning dip at the seaside, which he suffered through but had to pretend that he enjoyed it, later. George also suggested taking only two suits of clothes each, along with plenty of socks and handkerchiefs.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 4 Summary
Further discussion on provisions to be taken along, especially food and the repercussions of the wrong kind ofprovisions. Packing of their luggage with Montmorency hampering the process in umpteen ways.
The next subject raised was that of food. It was decided that no paraffin oil was to be taken to cook the meals. An earlier trip with an oil stove had taught the three friends that the oil could easily leak and soak into everything on the boat. Therefore, for this trip, it was decided that methylated spirit would be used.
Another article that the friends decided not to take was cheese, for its odour was too strong. The author related an amusing incident when he agreed to carry two types of cheese from Liverpool to London, for his friend. As a result of the smell of the cheeses, no one else boarded the train carriage in which he was sitting. When he delivered the cheeses to his friend’s wife, she left the house as she could not bear the smell either!
The next morning, which was Friday, they began to pack. The author first offered to pack, and was surprised when instead of helping him, his friends let him do so without protest. However, he had to pack the clothes hamper several times, as once the boots were left out, then the author did not remember if he had packed his toothbrush, and so on. Harris and George offered to do the rest of the packing. They packed the food in the worst manner possible, putting heavy things on fragile ones, sitting
on the butter and spilling salt over everything. Montmorency helped in this process by making them stumble over him, sitting down on things they were looking for, and jumping into the hamper.
By 12:50, the packing was done and the three friends retired to bed. George inquired of the others at what time he should wake them, but by the time the author and Harris agreed upon 6.30 after much argument, George had fallen asleep.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 5 Summary
Departure from London amidst much confusion and hilarity. Arrival at Kingston and finally setting off on the boat.
The next morning, Mrs Poppets awoke the author at nine o’clock. Realising that George was still asleep, the author and Harris woke him up by pulling off his covers, hitting him with a slipper and shouting in his ear. They began to get dressed and then realized that they had packed their toothbrushes in the luggage. Having taken them out and having finally dressed, they all sat down to breakfast.
While they ate, George read out the weather forecast from the newspaper. This caused the author to reflect that in his experience, the weather forecast was a fraud. He related an incident where they stayed at home on a bright sunny day, because the forecast was for rain and, the next day, when it was forecast to be sunny, they were caught in a storm and fell ill. The author also expressed his doubts about the usefulness of barometers. Instead, he said that he preferred the opinions of old men, who even if they were wrong about the weather, could at least be appreciated for trying.
After George went to work, Harris and the author took out the entire luggage and waited for a cab. While they waited, all the young boys of the neighbourhood crowded around them, each offering his own opinion about why they stood in the street with the luggage. When an empty cab finally came up, they loaded in the luggage and Montmorency, and made their way to Waterloo station.
There, they spent some time rushing from one platform to another, as no one seemed to have any idea where the train to Kingston would leave from. Finally on reaching Kingston, they loaded their boat with their luggage and provisions, forced an unhappy Montmorency into the boat and set sail.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 6 Summary
Some remarks on early English history and observations on life in general. The author gives his views on the contradictory nature of people who always want what they don’t have and never realize the value of what they do have. Harris narrates an incident when he acted as a guide in the maze at Hampton Court.
Harris rowed the boat down the river, as the author sat back and thought about the beauty of the day and the history of Kingston. The author then commented that Queen Elizabeth had stopped over at many places around the river, as she was especially fond of public inns. According to him, if Harris were to ever become the Prime Minister, he should never allow the innkeepers to place boards outside their inns proclaiming that he had stopped there.
There were many houses in the area, built during the Tudor era. The author commented on one such house which had been converted to a shop and which had a marvellous oak staircase. The owner of the house also had an entire room which was panelled in oak, which he had covered up with bright blue wallpaper, as he found the oak rather gloomy.
Based on this incident, the author observed that people usually have what they do not want and want what they do not have. As an example, the author narrated the case of a boy named Stiwings, in his school, who loved studying, but who fell ill very often and had to miss school. On the other hand, every other boy in school wished that they could fall sick and miss school, but they could not.
The author also raised the question of what was valued as antique in those days. While he was thinking of these matters, Harris suddenly stopped rowing and lay down with his legs in the air. Montmorency jumped up, upsetting one of the hampers and spilling its contents into the boat. It turned out that the author should have been steering, but had forgotten to do so, and the boat had landed onto the bank.
As they were near Hampton Court at that time, Harris and the author got into a discussion about the maze there. Harris had once visited the maze with a cousin, and thought it would be simple to get out of it. He had collected all the people within the maze who were lost, and led them all confidently through it, only to find that he was as lost as the rest of them. Therefore, Harris now thought it was a very fine maze and they decided to visit it as soon as George joined them.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 7 Summary
Their passage through Moulsey locks. The author’s comments on fashion and the dressing sense of people and the apparent lack of it in most people, including his friends. Harris ’ wish to visit a tomb and the events leading to him falling in the food hamper.
As the author and Harris passed through Moulsey Lock, they were surprised to see that there were hardly any other boats on the river at that point. On Sundays, according to the author, there were so many boats on the river that it became hard to see the water at all. It seemed as though all the inhabitants of the nearby areas would descend on the river, in their boating clothes, to enjoy their Sunday.
The author then commented on the dressing sense of the people. He shared his opinion that both Harris and George did not seem to have much sense of what colour suited them the best. He also related an incident when two ladies went boating with them, wearing boating dresses inspired by a Parisian fashion magazine. Throughout the trip, the girls were so concerned about saving their dresses from the dirt and the water that they were unable to enjoy the outing.
The author’s stories were interrupted by Harris, who wanted to visit a nearby tomb, of a lady he knew nothing about. The author commented on the strangeness of the fact that many people seemed to like visiting tombs and graves. He tried to distract Harris from his desire to see the tomb by reminding him that they had to meet George at five o’clock.
Harris then declared that George did not really do any work at all and that his job was just to sit behind a glass window in the bank all day. He also declared that he wanted a drink. The author reminded him that they had lemonade in the hamper. When Harris went to get it, he forgot that he still had the steering lines in his hand, and the boat landed on the river bank. The impact made Harris fall straight into the hamper, with his legs in the air.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 8 Summary
Lunch near Kempton Park and trespassing by the trio. The stance, of the author and Harris, on landowners. The author’s views on Harris ’ terrible singing. George joins them at Weybridge with a banjo!
The author and Harris stopped for lunch near Kempton Park, when they were interrupted by a man who claimed that they were trespassing. The friends thanked him for the information and offered him some bread and jam, but the man seemed upset by the gesture and went away. The author then shared his belief that the man had been hoping to get some money by blackmailing them and that there were many such people all along the river. The correct way of dealing with them was to not give in, but to ask to have the owner of the property get in touch with you.
The author then commented that many landowners by the river had become so selfish that they put in posts and chains with notice boards to prevent people from going up the backwaters and tributaries. This made both the author and Harris very angry. While the author was content to kill the owners and put the notice boards over their graves, Harris wanted to additionally kill their family and friends, bum their houses and sing comic songs on the mins. The author succeeded in convincing Harris to lessen his harsh punishment.
The author then discussed how terrible it was to hear Harris sing a comic song. He also shared how even a high-class party was once mined because of confusion over a German song that Harris had sung. It had all happened because two shameless young men told the party that the song in question was a comedy, whereas it actually was a tragedy.
They reached Sunbury Lock by half past three and the author advised everyone not to try to row up the’ backwaters against the current. Passing by Walton a little later, he commented on how fortunate it was that only a small part of the town could be seen from the river, as the banks were mostly covered with woods and fields. Apparently, Walton was another place which had been visited by both Caesar and Queen Elizabeth. They also passed Oakland Park, where the Duchess of York had lived with several dogs.
They finally reached Weybridge, where they saw George at the Lock. Seeing him, the author and Harris let out shouts and screams, while Montmorency barked, making the Lock-keeper think someone had drowned. George had brought a banjo with him, even though he did not know how to play one.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 9 Summary
George put to work. The problems of tow-lines and incidents relating to them described. Reaching Penton Hook and decision to travel till Runnymeade as their next halting point.
The author and Harris decided to make George do the work now. However, when they passed him the tow-line, it was very tangled. According to the author, it is a characteristic’ of tow-lines in general that no matter how neatly they are coiled to begin with, they always find ways to get tangled.
The author was reminded of a time when one windy morning, two men managed to untangle their tow-line, only to find that their boat had drifted away. George had a similar amusing incident to share, where a boy and a girl were pulling the tow line, without realizing that there was no boat behind them anymore. Instead, George and his friends hitched their boat to the line and it was quite some time later when the boy and the girl realized that they had lost their boat and were pulling along strangers.
In another incident, the author and George saw a boat with five men relaxing onboard, being towed by a boy on a horse.
The man who was steering, accidentally pulled the wrong line, and the boat ran onto the bank, making most of the men fall overboard. The author felt this was a good thing, for boats being towed at such a speed tended to tangle their tow-lines over other boats’ masts, besides not giving any other boat time to get out of their way. The author also related his opinion about having one’s boat towed by women. He claimed that it was an adventure because they would chatter among themselves, stop towing suddenly and then remember something or the other that they needed from the boat.
The friends reached Penton Hook and since it was too early to sleep, they decided to keep going till Runnymead. The author recalled an instance when he and a female cousin were boating and it was getting late. They had mapped their course so that they would pass by Wallingford, but however much they rowed, they did not reach it. The river had then seemed to take on a dreamlike, haunting, ghostly aspect and they had been most relieved when they heard the sound of badly sung songs, signalling another boating party.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 10 Summary
Their attempts to cover the boat with canvas. The making of tea and eating supper. The appeal of a deserted island.
Narration of a funny incident by George. Restless night for the author.
By the time the friends decided to stop for the night, all they wanted was to eat and sleep. They drew up in a pleasant spot, but rather than eat immediately, George suggested that they put up the canvas covering on the boat. However, this turned out to be a more difficult task than they had thought. After trying for a long time they managed to get the hoops up, but when it came to putting the canvas cover over them, Harris and George got rolled up in it and could not free themselves.
Finally, after half an hour’s hard labour, the canvas was up and the friends put the tea to boil, while they got supper ready. According to the author, the best way to get the tea ready, while on a boat, was to put the kettle on the stove and ignore it, talking loudly about how one doesn’t actually want any tea. This supposedly inspires the kettle to boil faster.
For more than half an hour, they ate steadily, inspiring the author to discuss the importance of food and how it was the surest path to virtue and contentment. Smoking their pipes afterwards, the friends discussed how nice it would be to live on a deserted island, more so since George assured Harris that it would not be damp if it was well-drained.
George was reminded of a funny incident where his father and his friend stopped at an inn. When they went up to bed, both the friends got into the same bed, one the right way and the other with his feet on the pillow. They both thought there was someone else in their bed and tried to throw the other off, resulting in both of them landing on the floor, with no idea of what had actually happened.
Soon the three friends went to bed, but although he was very tired, the author was not able to sleep. He found the boat a very hard bed to sleep in and seemed to have something digging into his back. Finally, he got up and went out onto the bank, admiring the star-lit night.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 11 Summary
The problems of getting up too early. The aversion of the three friends, and Montmorency, to cold water and the author’s fall in the water. Harris attempt to scramble eggs for breakfast. A historical insight on the signing of the Magna Charta.
The next morning, both the author and George woke up at six, and both found it impossible to go back to sleep. George related a story of how the same thing had happened to him some months ago, on a foggy day. He had forgotten to wind his watch, and had woken up thinking it was a quarter past eight in the morning. He got ready and dashed off to work, only to find that the entire town seemed to be asleep. He finally asked a policeman for the time and realized that it was just three a.m. After that, he returned home but could not sleep. He went for a walk, but the policemen found it suspicious that someone would be out at that time of the morning and he had to return home. He had made it a point never to wake up early ever since.
When George had finished his story, the author poked Harris with the oar to wake him up, causing Montmorency, who had been sleeping on Harris’ chest, to jump across the boat. They had thought that they would all take a morning dip in the river, but when it came to it, no one wanted to. Finally, the author went to the bank, intending to splash some water on himself, but the branch on which he was sitting snapped and he fell into the cold water. However, even though he pretended that it was lovely in the water, his friends did not join him.
While dressing, the author’s shirt fell into the water, which George found very funny. However, when the author realized that it was actually George’s shirt, George seemed to lose his sense of humour. For breakfast, Harris suggested making scrambled eggs, implying that he was very good at the job. However, he did not seem to be any good at it as he had trouble breaking eggs into the pan, then burnt himself time and again whereupon he would dance around in pain.
After breakfast, the author was moved by the peaceful beauty of the scene which led him to vividly imagine the same scene, as it must have been, on the day when the historic Magna Charta was signed, in 1215.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 12 Summary
A visit to the Magna Charta Island and talk of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. George reminds them of another trip and the predicament that they hadfaced upon reaching Dachet. Tea at Cookham and ramming of the boat into another, with three elderly fishermen aboard. Stopping at Marlow for the night.
The friends then visited the Magna Charta Island, where the document was rumoured to have been signed. Near the picnic point where their boat was moored, were the ruins of an old priory, one of the places where Henry VIII was said to meet
Anne Boleyn. He pointed out that being in the same house as a pair of lovers is very uncomfortable, as they may be found in any of the rooms you enter, or even if you go out for a walk. He thought the situation of the English around the time of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn must have been similar.
The friends continued to sail up the river and when they were passing by Dachet, George reminded his friends of their first boat trip, when they had reached Dachet at ten in the night. They had been unable to find any room at the two inns and, for half the night, kept going from one place to another, till, at last, Harris was exhausted and pronounced himself ready to die.
It was then that a young child had passed by and told them that his mother could rent out a room for the night. They had viewed the child as an angel, falling upon his neck in joy. Harris had nearly fainted with joy, and had to be revived with half a mug of beer. The rest of the night had then passed happily, as the boy’s mother had fed them a good supper with jam tart afterwards.
Returning to the current boat trip, it was time for lunch, but just as they sat down to eat, they realized that they had no mustard. Usually, neither of them was fond of mustard, but for some reason they all craved it then. After lunch, they enjoyed an apple pie, but when they tried to open a can of pineapples, they found that they had no can opener. After trying a knife, a pair of scissors and a rock, and injuring each other in the process, Harris threw the can into the river.
They reached Maidenhead soon after, but passed through, travelling on to Cookham for tea. They then found that a stiff breeze had sprung up and unfurled the sail. The boat now went along at a quicker pace, steered by the author. Unfortunately, they sailed right into the boat of three old men who were fishing, who got very angry and cursed the three friends very comprehensively. After that, George steered, and they landed at Marlow, where they went to an inn for the night.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 13 Summary
Description of Marlow and Bisham Abbey. The antics of Montmorency and nature offox terriers in general. Shopping for provisions and their dislike of using river water explained. Harris falls into a ditch and blames George and the author for his fall.
The author described the beauties of the area around Marlow. He also described the attractions of the Bisham Abbey, which came to the right bank of the river. The next morning, they woke up early and went for a bath before breakfast.
On their way back to the inn, Montmorency saw a cat crossing the road and sprang after it. Instead of running, the cat sat down in the middle of the street and stared back at Montmorency. This seemed to confuse him and he returned to the author quietly.
The author also explained that the innate nature of fox terriers was to make trouble, and cited an incident where a young lady had brought her fox terrier to the store and had tied it up near the other dogs who were sitting there peacefully. Within minutes the terrier had started a war among the dogs.
The friends spent the morning shopping for food and other necessities and were followed by an impressive procession of shop boys carrying various packages, as they made their way to the boat. The author also explained why he disliked steam launches and how they managed to annoy such boats throughout the trip.
When the three were near Hambledon Lock, they found that their store of water was low, so they asked for water at a house nearby. However, the man simply asked them to take some river water, which they were not keen on doing. The author related an incident later, where they had tried river water to make their tea once, but just as the tea was ready, however, they had seen a peaceful looking dead dog floating down the river and had to throw away the tea.
A while later, they stopped for lunch halfway up the backwater near Wargrave. They were just getting ready to carve a pie, when George and the author looked away briefly. When they looked back, Harris and the pie seemed to have disappeared! Just as they were considering the possibilities of him having been swallowed by the earth, his head became visible. He had fallen into a ditch just behind where he had been sitting. He was convinced that it had all been planned by the author and George, no matter how much they protested their innocence.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 14 Summary
Wargrave, Shiplake and Sonning. George cooks stew for supper. Montmorency’s dislike of the tea kettle. George attempts to play the banjo but is discouraged by all. George and the author take a walk and lose their way. Harris feels unwell.
The three friends now moved past Wargrave and Shiplake. The author shared some local information about the beautiful towns. They went on shore at Sonning and took a walk around the pretty village. Later, they decided to go back to one of the Shiplake islands, instead of heading for Reading that night.
Once they were settled, George volunteered to cook an Irish stew for supper. The author and Harris sat down to peel potatoes for it, but found that it was a very tough job. In the end, they just added unpeeled potatoes. They also put in all the leftovers that they had found in the hamper. Montmorency brought a dead water rat for the stew, but they were not sure whether or not it was in a sarcastic spirit.
After they ate, the kettle was put on for tea. Montmorency did not trust the kettle and every day, when it began to boil and sputter, he would growl at it. Now, he sprang at it, burnt his nose and ran away howling in pain. He never attacked the kettle again.
After supper, George took out the banjo, but had to put it away as Harris said he had a headache. Montmorency also never cooperated when George tried to play the banjo. In fact, George never did learn to play, as everyone around seemed very discouraging. The author was reminded of the story of a fellow who faced great discouragement when he tried to play the bagpipes.
Harris was not feeling very well after supper, so the other two left him in the boat and went for a walk. It was almost eleven when they returned, and a light rain had started to fall. However, they could not remember where exactly their boat was moored and did not find it till past midnight, when they had all but given up hope.
When they finally got into the boat, they saw that Harris seemed strange and sad. When the others asked him about it, he explained that they had moored near a swan’s nest. Harris had to fight off the swans, but he was not very clear about the details. He had no recollection of any swans the next morning. George and the author slept well, but Harris had a disturbed night, as he constantly woke up looking for different articles of clothing.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 15 Summary
Household work, duties and their general aversion to work. Observations on the changed attitudes of the younger generation. Sharing of their earlier boating experiences.
Waking up early the next morning, the author and his friends had a quick breakfast and then started cleaning up and tidying things. This gave them an insight into how a housewife is kept constantly occupied. By ten o’clock they were ready to continue on their journey. However, upon the question of who should row, the three friends could not agree. Each felt that the other two had not been doing enough work. According to the author, while he loved work and always kept around it, he was not too keen on actually doing more than observing it.
Finally it was decided that George and Harris would row and then later on the author would tow the boat past Reading. The author then discussed the strange change in the attitudes of the younger generation. According to him, the old experienced sailors always relaxed and made the new ones do all the work, all the while telling them mostly fictitious stories about how they had once rowed in far worse conditions. The author had noticed a change in the younger generation, however, as once, when he and his friends were trying out this strategy with a new sailor, instead of listening to them, he refused to believe their stories.
As the three friends rowed along, they shared their early boating experiences. The author recalled rafting in the backwaters, with the owner of the planks chasing him for stealing them. George recalled his first outing on the river-at the age of sixteen, when he and his friends hired a racing boat and had a terrible time trying to row it. Harris on the other hand, was more used to the sea than to river boating.
The author then discussed the temperament and method of the old boatman, who calmly allows all other boats to overtake him without the slightest objection. He then commented on the funny sight of two novices rowing together, as neither can keep pace with the other and they end up blaming the oars and the man who rented the boat out to them.
When George mentioned that he would like to try punting, the author related the story of a friend who went punting and sadly got stuck in the middle of the river, clinging onto his pole like a monkey. The author was now alone on the punt with no form of oars on board. He was saved by a fishing punt.
However, the author’s first experience of punting was amusing, because his friends saw another fellow on the water who they thought was him, and in their friendly manner had mocked him. They had felt very foolish later on. The author had shared his first sailing trip with a friend, when he was a boy. According to him, they did everything wrong and it was surprising that they had not fallen into the water and drowned!
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 16 Summary
The friends enjoy being towed by a steam boat from Reading till Pangbourne. The author’s turn to row and his attempt to argue his way out of it. The discovery of the dead body of a woman and her story.
They reached Reading at about eleven in the morning. The author explained that while it was not a pretty sight, it was, historically, an important place. At Reading Lock, the three friends came upon a steam launch belonging to one of their friends, which towed their boat till Streatley. The author and his friends enjoyed being towed. Contradictory to his early views on steam launches and his usual practice of not getting out of their way, the author now expressed his annoyance with small boats which did not get out of the way of the steam launches.
A little above Mapledurham, they passed by the neighbourhood of Pangbourne, where the steam launch left them. The author tried to reason that the area where he was to row the boat had already passed, but George and Harris refused to agree, which the author thought was proof that they were shirking their work again. To keep peace, the author began rowing. However, they soon stopped when they discovered the dead body of a woman floating on the river. The body was taken to shore by some men on the bank. The friends later found out the woman’s story, where she had been deceived in love, left homeless with a small child and finally had drowned herself.
The author and his friends had intended to reach Wallingford that day, but the area of Streatley and Goring was so beautiful that they decided to spend some more time there.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 17 Summary
Stay at Streatley and its popularity as a fishing area. The author’s story of his lack of success at fishing and stories of other successful fishermen. George takes a tumble in an inn at Streatley.
The author and his friends stayed at Streatley for two days and got their clothes washed. They had tried to wash their clothes in the river earlier, but it seemed as though all the dirt of the river had collected onto their clothes instead.
The author shared that the area around Streatley and Goring was known to be a fishing centre. The river was supposed to be full of pikes, eels, gudgeons and other fish and people could sit and fish all day long. However, the author felt that actually catching any fish was a different matter altogether.
He had once tried fishing, but the experienced fishers had told him that he didn’t have enough imagination to be successful at it. According to them, a successful angler is one who can not only make up good stories, but can add incidental detail to it, to make it appear authentic. Not only would he spin out a fine tale about the actual process of fishing, but would add details of what they said at home, and so on.
The author once knew a fellow who took to fly-fishing and decided never to exaggerate his stories by more than twenty-five per cent, as it was sinful to lie. Within a few months he revised his strategy and decided to exaggerate by doubling, but even this was not satisfactory. He finally decided to count each fish as ten, and had been going along very happily, ever since.
In fact, the author advises one to take the opportunity to drop in at one of the little village inns and listen to the fishy stories the anglers always share. On their second evening at Streatley, George and the author went into a little inn, and saw a large trout framed in a glass case above the chimney. One by one, four different men came into the inn, and each one claimed to have caught the trout. Finally the inn keeper himself came and told the two friends his version of the story. Fascinated by the fish, George climbed onto a chair to get a better view, slipped and crashed down along with the trout case. It shattered into thousands of pieces, for the trout was made of plaster-of-Paris.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 18 Summary
The author’s fondness for locks on the river. The story of George and the author being photographed on the boat ‘Nuneham’—a good place to drown. The ill-effect of the river air on the most tranquil people.
They left Streatley the next morning and slept the next night in the boat, near Culham. The absence of any locks for a stretch of six and a half miles was appreciated by the rowing men, but the author himself was fond of locks. He was fond of the variation they created in the process of boating and liked chatting with the lock-keepers and their families. It was also a good place to meet other boaters and share some river-gossip.
The author shared an incident when he and George had been boating near Hampton Court. A photographer had set up his equipment and immediately everyone in their respective boats took up whatever poses they thought suited them the best. In the process, the author’s boat nearly got stuck in the woodwork of the lock and nearly tipped over. They managed to save the boat, but their poses, for the photograph, were ruined.
The author then shared some of the history of Wallingford. From Wallingford to Dorchester, the area became hillier. Dorchester, again, was a town with a lot of history, having been the capital of Wessex in Saxon times.
The next morning, the three sailors were up early and headed out towards Oxford. At Abingdon, the river passed by the streets of the little town. There was a monument in St. Helen’s Church there, recording a Mr Lee, who had had a family of one hundred and ninety seven. The author hoped that there were not many like him in this crowded, modem world.
Near the lock at Nuneham, according to the author, was a pool which was very good to drown in because of the strong undercurrents. After they crossed over Iffley, the author came to what he called the most difficult part of the river, until Oxford. This was because of the strong cross-currents in the water, which made it difficult to row in a straight line.
As a result, the author also noticed how being on a boat can make one ill-tempered. He thought that it was because the air around the river that had a negative effect on even the most sweet-tempered people.
Three Men in a Boat Chapter 19 Summary
Stay at Oxford. Montmorency’s idea of heaven. The pros and cons of rowing upstream. The start of the journey back home. Swapping of stories between the friends. George plays the banjo. Wet days on the boat and flight back, to solid ground. The end of the boat trip.
The three friends stayed at Oxford for two days. During that time, Montmorency fought with several dogs, which seemed to be his idea of heaven.
The author also commented on the practice of some people of taking a boat from Oxford and travelling downstream with the current. However, he was of the opinion that it was far more satisfying to row upstream, especially when George and Harris were rowing and he was steering. The author recommended taking one’s own boat for this stretch. According to him, one may also hire boats above Marlow, as they were quite unlikely to sink, but were plain and unomamented. As a result, people were not too keen to be seen in them and travelled only early in the morning or late at night. He shared his experience of hiring one such boat, called the ‘Pride of the Thames’, which actually looked more like a roman relic.
On the third day at Oxford, the weather changed and they began their home-ward journey amidst a drizzle. The author mused that as beautiful as the river looked on a sunlit day, it was equally dismal when it rained. The three friends first tried to pretend to like it, so much so that Harris and the author even tried singing songs about a gypsy’s life. George however, stayed stuck under the umbrella.
They pulled up that evening at a place called Day’s Lock and had quite a dismal evening. The rain continued, everything was clammy and damp, and their dinner was unappetizing, as they each wished to eat something they could not have. Afterwards, they played cards and George won four pence from the others.
They then mixed up some toddy and shared dismal tales. George spoke of a young man who caught a chill in a damp boat and died, Harris shared a story of a friend who slept out on such a night and was crippled for life. This led to a lively discussion of several dangerous diseases. Finally the author, in a weak moment, asked George to play them a comic song on his banjo.
He immediately played a merry tune, but made it sound so sad that the other two wanted to cry. Finally they went to bed, sleeping fitfully till about five a.m. The second day was just like the first, but the three were determined not to give up just yet. By the time they neared Pangboume, they were discussing how nice it would be to stop at a nice warm inn and restaurant, except that they had made up their minds to stay with the boat.
Twenty minutes later, the three men and the dog crept stealthily towards the railway station. They reached the Paddington station at seven, drove to a restaurant and ate heartily. Finally well fed and happy, Harris proposed a toast to the three men who were well out of a boat! Montmorency seemed to approve.