From time to time we all get the urge to read an old classic, you know, something written in the late 1800s, that we think will be good for us, but we resist actually doing it because we’re pretty sure it will be hard work. Well, have I got a readable old classic for you!
Three bungling Victorian youth and their naughty dog, decide to go on a journey up the River Thames, from Kingston to Oxford! The book was originally meant to be a serious travelogue but the humour in it took over and it became a comic British novel. The book is funny, fresh, and undated, despite the fact that it was written in 1889! The three men are based on the author himself, and two of his friends who later became successful business men in London.
In many ways the book is a tongue in cheek critique of the self-absorbed and self-centered wealthy youth during the Victorian era. The young men are hypochondriacs and have very few survival skills when out on their own. The passages where they try to put up a tent or cook a meal are hilarious, and their misadventures will resonate with anyone who camps or travels today.
The dog, a terrier, features prominently in the subtitle (‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’) and in the story. Montmorency is described as having “four times the usual amount of original sin”, and yet can sit sweetly and look like an angel. If you’ve ever owned a terrier you know how true that description is. Incidentally, when all is said and done, the dog does have the last word!
This book was the first assignment in my new book club in Windsor/Eton. It was fun to read shortly after my arrival in England because we live in that area and most of their stops along the River Thames were already familiar to me
After you’ve read the book, you may want to watch the BBC TV episode where three modern men recreate the journey. Here is part 1 to get you started.