Three Men in a Boat is one of the most popular English travelogues, having never been out of print since its publication in 1889 and causing its publisher to comment, “I cannot imagine what becomes of all the copies of that book I issue. I often think the public must eat them.”
The novel itself is a brisk, light-hearted, and funny account of a two-week boating holiday taken by three friends up the Thames river. Jerome is a sort of everyman narrator, and even the stodgiest reader can sympathize with at least some of the situations and conundrums he and his friends find themselves in during their adventure.
Interspersed between comic moments are slightly more serious descriptions of the picturesque villages and landscape the friends explore, making Three Men in a Boat not just a comic novel but an actual account of the life, times, and land of late 19th century greater London.
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Jerome K. Jerome was born in Walsall, Staffordshire in 1859, and educated at Marylebone Grammar School. He left school aged fourteen to become a railway clerk, the first of a long line of jobs which included acting, teaching and journalism. His first book On Stage and Off, a collection of humorous pieces about the theatre, was well received on its publication 1885 and was followed by The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886), his most famous work, Three Men in a Boat (1890) and its sequel Three Men on the Bummel (1900). In 1892 Jerome, together with some friends, founded The Idler, an illustrated monthly magazine which gained a reputation for publishing humorous work. When the magazine folded, Jerome turned to the theatre again and became well-known as a playwright. He died in 1927.
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