Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
published 1889 Chapter 7
The river affords a good opportunity for dress. For once in a way, we men are able to show our taste in colours, and I think we come out very natty, if you ask me. I always like a little red in my things — red and black. You know my hair is a sort of golden brown, rather a pretty shade I've been told, and a dark red matches it beautifully….
Harris always keeps to shades or mixtures of orange or yellow, but I don't think he is at all wise in this…but, there! the less taste a person has in dress, the more obstinate he always seems to be. It is a great pity, because he will never be a success as it is, while there are one or two colours in which he might not really look so bad, with his hat on.
George has bought some new things for this trip, and I'm rather vexed about them. The blazer is loud. I should not like George to know that I thought so, but there really is no other word for it. He brought it home and showed it to us on Thursday evening. We asked him what colour he called it, and he said he didn't know. He didn't think there was a name for the colour. The man had told him it was an Oriental design. George put it on, and asked us what we thought of it. Harris said that, as an object to hang over a flower-bed in early spring to frighten the birds away, he should respect it; but that, considered as an article of dress for any human being… it made him ill.
Jerome K Jerome again - see blog entry here - with his very clever unreliable authorial voice (and, sadly, a racial slur very much of its time, which we have edited out). He was a more serious and religious chap than this book would suggest, although even here there are occasional passages that fit strangely with the rest:
Then Night, like some great loving mother, gently lays her hand upon our fevered head, and turns our little tear-stained faces up to hers, and smiles; and, though she does not speak, we know what she would say, and lay our hot flushed cheek against her bosom, and the pain is gone.
If you’re waiting for the punchline here, the flip reversal, the ironic flourish, you’ll be disappointed – the passage goes on and on in this vein. Easier to like him as the man who said “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
The picture is of some members of a Queensland cricket team, comes from the Queensland State Library, and is featured on Wikimedia Commons.
Thanks again to Deborah Machin for the suggestion.