Jerome introduces his book as being commendable nor for its style or relevance, but rather for its straightforward truth. He insists that the boat trip he details actually took place, and that the characters he speaks of are actual humans, not literary constructions. He believes that no other books can claim to be more truthful, and hopes that its simplicity helps his message come across more clearly. Chapter 1
The narrator, J., is smoking in his room with his friends, George and William Samuel Harris, and his dogMontmorency. The men, all hypochondriacs, are chatting about their latest illnesses, each man certain that he is in danger of death or serious disease. In a flashback, J. recollects how he once went to the British Museum to research a treatment for his hay fever, and after reading about diseases, convinced himself that he was suffering from every illness known to man except for housemaid’s knee. J.’s doctor, clearly recognizing the man's paranoia, prescribed him beefsteak, beer, walking, and good sleep habits, and urged him not to “stuff up your head with things you don’t understand” (10). J. still believes that he suffers from every disease, but he is especially concerned about his ‘liver condition’ – the main symptom of which is “a general disinclination to work of any kind” (10). The friends decide that taking a vacation together would restore their health, and debate locations for a week-long excursion. J. suggests a rural, old-world spot, but Harris wishes to avoid remote locations and counters with the suggestion of a sea cruise. J. vetoes that idea because one week is not enough time to overcome seasickness and actually enjoy the trip. He notes to the reader that no one admits to being seasick on land, but that many people have trouble with it when actually on a ship. George suggests taking a boat trip down the Thames, an idea that everyone approves. Though J. worries that Montmorency will get bored in the boat, they decide to bring him along anyway. Chapter 2
The men begin to make plans for their boat trip. George and J. want to camp along the river, believing that sleeping outside will offer a true escape from the city. J. writes sentimentally and poetically about the beauty and power of nature. However, Harris points out that camping would be unpleasant if it rains, so they decide to camp on nights with good weather and sleep in inns when the weather is poor. J. believes Montmorency will prefer hotels because they offer more excitement and stables that the dog can run around in. J. explains to the reader that Montmorency’s adorable appearance endears him to everyone who meets him, but he is actually a hyperactive troublemaker. The men leave for a pub, to further discuss arrangements for the trip. Chapter 3
At the pub, they compile a list of what they need to pack. Harris volunteers to write out the list, and J. compares him for the reader to his Uncle Podger, who always volunteers to help others but bungles the job because he is so accident-prone. Further, Uncle Podger ends up causing more work for everyone else because of his general incompetence. To illustrate his point, J. tells a lengthy story about how Uncle Podger once caused chaos for his entire household when trying to complete the simple task of hammering a nail into the wall. Because the men do not want to leave anything behind, the list soon becomes ridiculously long. George suggests that they bring only the things they cannot do without, and they agree to travel light, even deciding to bring a cover a sleep in the boat so that they do not need to pack a tent. George promises that it will be easy to wash their clothes in the river with a bit of soap, and J. and Harris trust him (although J. notes that they will later regret this).
Continuing to plan, the friends discuss what they will need for cooking. Although paraffin oil stoves are more common, they decide to bring a methylated spirit stove, remembering how the...
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