Three Men on the Bummel (also known as Three Men on Wheels) is a humorous novel by Jerome K. Jerome. It was published in 1900, eleven years after his most famous work, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).The sequel brings back the three companions who figured in Three Men in a Boat, this time on a bicycle tour through the German Black Forest. D. C. Browning's introduction to the 1957 Everyman's edition says "Like most sequels, it has been compared unfavourably with its parent story, but it was only a little less celebrated than Three Men in a Boat and was for long used as a school book in Germany." Jeremy Nicholas of the Jerome K. Jerome Society regards it as a "comic masterpiece" containing "set pieces" as funny or funnier than those in its predecessor, but, taken as a whole, not as satisfying due to the lack of as strong a unifying thread.D. C. Browning writes "The title must be puzzling to many readers, for 'bummel' will not be found in English dictionaries." It is a German word, as Jerome does not explain until the end of the book, and apart from his book, it has not received any widespread use in English. (The first American edition, published by Dodd Mead in 1900, was entitled Three Men on Wheels.)One of the characters in the book asks, "how would you translate [bummel]," to which the narrator replies, in the very final paragraph of the book:"A 'Bummel'," I explained, "I should describe as a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started. Sometimes it is through busy streets, and sometimes through the fields and lanes; sometimes we can be spared for a few hours, and sometimes for a few days. But long or short, but here or there, our thoughts are ever on the running of the sand. We nod and smile to many as we pass; with some we stop and talk awhile; and with a few we walk a little way. We have been much interested, and often a little tired. But on the whole we have had a pleasant time, and are sorry when it's over."The general style and manner of the book are similar to its predecessor. It is a series of humorous vignettes, each of which builds slowly, through accumulation of layer on layer of detail, through several pages. Jeremy Nicholas calls these "set pieces." Most of them concern bicycling, genial (if shallow) commentary on German culture from the point of view of a British tourist, or situation-comedy-like depictions of interpersonal interactions between the characters.The novel was written near the end of the Victorian-era bicycle craze, launched by the development of the two-wheeled safety bicycle. It depicts an era when bicycles had just become a familiar piece of middle-class recreational equipment. The references to brand competition, advertising, and enthusiasts' attitudes toward their equipment resonate with modern readers.The novel invites comparison with H. G. Wells's 1896 humorous cycling novel, The Wheels of Chance.Many of the comments on cycling are relevant—and funny—today. Those who have purchased ergonomic bicycle saddles, intended to relieve pressure on the perineal nerves, may not know that these are not a new invention:I said "...There may be a better land where bicycle saddles are made out of rainbow, stuffed with cloud; in this world the simplest thing is to get used to something hard. There was that saddle you bought in Birmingham; it was divided in the middle, and looked like a pair of kidneys."He said: "You mean that one constructed on anatomical principles.""Very likely," I replied. "The box you bought it in had a picture on the cover, representing a sitting skeleton—or rather that part of a skeleton which does sit."He said: "It was quite correct; it showed you the true position of the--"I said: "We will not go into details; the picture always seemed to me indelicate.
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