Three Men in a Boat

What began as three innocent friends ruminating on remedies for ailments – and an author trying to write a travel guide – turned into a timeless piece of British literary comedy, with the guide element now only a footnote to the humour. The trio of George, Harris and Jerome – who are based on the author and his two pals – head west up the Thames with their dog Montmorency, equipped with just a tent, a boat and plenty of anecdotes. An almost permanent resident in ‘Funniest Books of All Time’ lists, Jerome K. Jerome’s finest work is a cultural touchstone that simply must be read.

About the author

After shovelling coal on the railway, trying his hand at acting and working in a solicitor’s office, Jerome finally made his name as an author when Three Men in a Boat was serialised in Home Chimes.

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Why We Like It

  • Hilarious summer read
  • 100 years old and ageing like a fine wine
  • Peepshow meets P.G. Wodehouse
  • Thanks to Aviv Or for the unique illustration!

Illustration © Aviv Or @AvivOr


Jerome Klapka Jerome was born in 1859 in Staffordshire in England.  His father, Jerome Clapp (who later renamed himself Jerome Clapp Jerome), was an ironmonger and lay preacher, and the family fell into poverty owing to bad investments in the local mining industry. After the death of his father when Jerome was 13 and of his mother when he was 15, Jerome was forced to leave school and find work. He was employed on the railways for four years before trying his hand at acting in 1877, under the stage name Harold Crichton. But after three years on the road with a struggling repertory group, he tried his hand at becoming a journalist and wrote essays, satires, and short stories, most of which were rejected. Over the next few years, he took work as a school teacher, a packer and a solicitor’s clerk. Finally, in 1885, he had some success with his comic memoir On the Stage — and Off (1885), and he followed this with Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886), a collection of humorous essays first published in the magazine Home Chimeswhich would later serialise Three Men in a Boat.

On 21 June 1888, Jerome married Georgina Elizabeth Henrietta Stanley Marris, who was known as Ettie. The honeymoon, which took place on the Thames ‘in a little boat’, inspired Three Men in a Boat, though in the novel Ettie was replaced by Jerome’s friends George Wingrave (George) and Carl Hentschel (Harris). The book was published in 1889 and became an instant success, significantly boosting the flow of tourists to the Thames and selling over a million copies worldwide in its first twenty years alone.

Jerome briefly edited The Idler and founded To-Day, and he continued to write books and plays, but Three Men in a Boat remained his most successful work. He served in the First World War as an ambulance driver for the French Army, published his autobiography in 1926 and died in June 1927 in Northampton.


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