Here comes Part Five of my serialization of Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome's comic classic from the days when commercial traffic had all but vanished and the River Thames above London was repurposed as a grand outing for pleasure cruisers. Faith Clendenen, a First Day Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
I have enjoyed all the Tales for Our Time since they first started (I'm a big Audible fan) but this one is indeed laugh out loud funny. I had not ever heard of it before so this is a truly delightful discovery. Thank you for broadening my knowledge.
Thank you, Faith. I'm chuffed you like it. Colorado Steyn Club member Paul Cathey doesn't even care that we're on Episode Five and the three men have yet to set foot in the dashed boat:
It's so funny, I'd be happy if they just kept fumbling and stumbling where they are for another thirty episodes, including of course the hilarious anecdotes told along the way.
Well, you're out of luck, Paul, because, in tonight's episode, the boating begins. Oh, but wait, no, we've time for one more digression:
The quaint back streets of Kingston, where they came down to the water's edge, looked quite picturesque in the flashing sunlight, the glinting river with its drifting barges, the wooded towpath, the trim-kept villas on the other side, Harris, in a red and orange blazer, grunting away at the sculls, the distant glimpses of the grey old palace of the Tudors, all made a sunny picture, so bright but calm, so full of life, and yet so peaceful, that, early in the day though it was, I felt myself being dreamily lulled off into a musing fit.
I mused on Kingston, or "Kyningestun," as it was once called in the days when Saxon "kinges" were crowned there. Great CÃ¦sar crossed the river there, and the Roman legions camped upon its sloping uplands. CÃ¦sar, like, in later years, Elizabeth, seems to have stopped everywhere: only he was more respectable than good Queen Bess; he didn't put up at the public-houses.
She was nuts on public-houses, was England's Virgin Queen. There's scarcely a pub. of any attractions within ten miles of London that she does not seem to have looked in at, or stopped at, or slept at, some time or other. I wonder now, supposing Harris, say, turned over a new leaf, and became a great and good man, and got to be Prime Minister, and died, if they would put up signs over the public-houses that he had patronised: "Harris had a glass of bitter in this house;" "Harris had two of Scotch cold here in the summer of '88;" "Harris was chucked from here in December, 1886."
No, there would be too many of them! It would be the houses that he had never entered that would become famous. "Only house in South London that Harris never had a drink in!" The people would flock to it to see what could have been the matter with it.
Our humble narrator then shares his thoughts on the famous scene at top right, when King Edwy ducked out of his coronation beano to have a little fun with his beloved Elgiva only to be dragged back by an ill-mannered St Dunstan to the drunken brawl his banquet had descended into. Not so long ago every English schoolboy knew that story. Today I'd be surprised if one in a quarter-million did.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Five of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes of Three Men in a Boat can be found here, and previous Tales for Our Time here.
Kingston to Oxford isn't as perilous as navigating the Frisian Islands in The Riddle of the Sands, but our many nautical charts were very popular last time round so, for those who'd like a clearer sense of where our trio is headed and the ports of call, here we go:
If you'd like to join Faith and Paul in The Mark Steyn Club, we'd love to have you: please see here. And, if you've a chum who enjoys classic fiction, we've introduced a special Steyn Gift Membership: you'll find more details here. Oh, and we also do video poetry - and an annual Steyn Club Cruise following our first two sold-out voyages.
Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Six of Three Men in a Boat.