Stroud & District

Progress with Three Men in a Boat

Notes in October

I have attached the famous Boulters Lock painting, one of a series, though it has absolutely nothing to do with the text – it is for your amusement only

We seem to be enjoying this rather strange, rather old-fashioned book, though not necessarily as the author intended.

The set-piece humour still works: Uncle Podger hanging a picture still finds a ticklish spot; the adventure in Hampton Court maze is still entertaining; the series of anecdotes about towing a boat ends with one of the best punch lines ever: ‘Oh Henry, then where is auntie?’ That sequence however continues as if J was not sure of the impact of the story and tells us the horse-towing story – which becomes a solemn warning against horse-towing – and then the towing by girls section that ends with a not very funny cow story. Then there is the also not very funny story of the missing lock and the ‘Arrys and ‘Arriets’.

I have chosen these examples because they show how uneven the book is. The authors viewpoint is not always consistent and he does not always seem to be sure of his audience. And sometimes he gets victorianly sententious in a way no humorist would dare to attempt nowadays. We find these things uncomfortable and pointless.

Any comments?