From a Victorian joke

I admit to having said, “For Victorian humor, it is quite funny,” when discussing Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.  Having said it, I revisited my copy of the book, a 1960’s edition with a delightful Gerald Searle cover drawing and a scent of pure bookishness. With relief I shall report that my research and review refreshed my recollection. ( Re: repeating prefixes is a poor excuse for alliteration) The author had in-deed parodied a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem in his description of the river Thames. Inspired, I thought I’d try my hand at a similar trick. Stephen and his much younger (and decidedly gullible) brother are walking through  park by the river Cole in south Birmingham:


Duncan asked his brother, where did the river come from, with its legends and traditions, with the odors of the factories, through the mold and marsh of meadows, under curling smoke of coal fires, this rushing of great waters, with their frequent undulations, and their wild reverberations as of thunder through Haw Green?

He thought a moment and replied, “I will tell you: from a lake close by Cole’s Hill, from the land around Fillongley, it’s out towards Nuneaton, and it flows towards the city, through the willows in these hollows, which the locals call the dingles, where cricket playing children lose their balls amongst the rushes. I even heard a song about it, they played it on the telly, by a bloke named Nawadaha, a comedian and a singer.”

“Yes, but where did Nawadaha find these stories, wild and wayward, like folk tales and old fables?”

Stephen swift responded, “Look around you at the tyres discarded in the forest, at the rat prints by the river, stinging nettles on the stream bank, and grey squirrels in the trees.”

This was enough to confuse Duncan into silence as they crossed the so-called five arches bridge, with its four arches — a question for another day — and climbed the sledge slope and turned along Cole Bank Road.

If you want to join i with such silliness, check out this website for texts online:


About Ian Whatley

Ian Whatley -- British born, bred, educated, and then deported. His fiction has been published in The Legendary, Lost and Found Times, 3S and so on and so on and...

Posted on October 7, 2010, in Ian W and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. That should have been Ronald, as opposed to Gerald, Searle.
    An interesting cartoonist – still alive and working at the age of 90. Survived four years as a prisoner of war building the infamous Burma railroad, as in The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

    Anyway, Three Men in a Boat is out of copyright and can be obtained for free online at site such as:

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