Jerome K. Jerome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Jerome Klapka Jerome
Jerome K. Jerome.jpg
Jerome K. Jerome
Born (1859-05-02)2 May 1859
Walsall, Staffordshire, England
Died 14 June 1927(1927-06-14) (aged 68)
Northampton, England
Occupation Author
Genres Humour

Jerome Klapka Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927) was an English writer and humorist, best known for the comic travelogue Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Other works include the essay collections Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886) and Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow; Three Men on the Bummel, a sequel to Three Men in a Boat; and several other novels.

Early life[edit]

Jerome was born in Caldmore, Walsall, England. He was the fourth child of Jerome Clapp (who later renamed himself Jerome Clapp Jerome), an ironmonger and lay preacher who dabbled in architecture, and Marguerite Jones. He had two sisters, Paulina and Blandina, and one brother, Milton, who died at an early age. Jerome was registered, like his father's amended name, as Jerome Clapp Jerome, and the Klapka appears to be a later variation (after the exiled Hungarian general György Klapka). Owing to bad investments in the local mining industry, the family fell into poverty and debt collectors visited often, an experience Jerome described vividly in his autobiography My Life and Times (1926).[1] The young Jerome attended St Marylebone Grammar School. He wished to go into politics or be a man of letters, but the death of his father when the younger Jerome was age 13 and of his mother when he was age 15 forced him to quit his studies and find work to support himself. He was employed at the London and North Western Railway, initially collecting coal that fell along the railway, and remained there for four years.

Acting career and early literary works[edit]

In 1877, inspired by his older sister Blandina's love for the theatre, Jerome decided to try his hand at acting, under the stage name Harold Crichton. He joined a repertory troupe that produced plays on a shoestring budget, often drawing on the actors' own meagre resources – Jerome was penniless at the time – to purchase costumes and props. After three years on the road with no evident success, the 21-year-old Jerome decided he had had enough of stage life and sought other occupations. He tried to become a journalist, writing essays, satires and short stories, but most of these were rejected. Over the next few years he was a school teacher, a packer, and a solicitor's clerk. Finally, in 1885, he had some success with On the Stage — and Off (1885), a comic memoir of his experiences with the acting troupe, followed by Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886), a collection of humorous essays which had previously appeared in the newly founded magazine, Home Chimes,[2] the same magazine that would later serialise Three Men in a Boat.[2] On 21 June 1888, Jerome married Georgina Elizabeth Henrietta Stanley Marris ("Ettie"), nine days after she divorced her first husband. She had a daughter from her previous, five-year marriage nicknamed Elsie (her actual name was also Georgina). The honeymoon took place on the Thames "in a little boat,"[3] a fact that was to have a significant influence on his next, and most important work, Three Men in a Boat.

Three Men in a Boat and later career[edit]

Jerome in about 1889

Jerome sat down to write Three Men in a Boat as soon as the couple returned from their honeymoon. In the novel, his wife was replaced by his longtime friends George Wingrave (George) and Carl Hentschel (Harris). This allowed him to create comic (and non-sentimental) situations which were nonetheless intertwined with the history of the Thames region. The book, published in 1889, became an instant success and is still in print. Its popularity was such that the number of registered Thames boats went up fifty percent in the year following its publication, and it contributed significantly to the Thames becoming a tourist attraction.

In its first twenty years alone, the book sold over a million copies worldwide. It has been adapted to movies, TV and radio shows, stage plays, and even a musical. Its writing style influenced many humorists and satirists in England and elsewhere.

With the financial security the sales of the book provided, Jerome was able to dedicate all of his time to writing. He wrote a number of plays, essays and novels, but was never able to recapture the success of Three Men in a Boat. In 1892 he was chosen by Robert Barr to edit The Idler (over Rudyard Kipling). The magazine was an illustrated satirical monthly catering to gentlemen (who, following the theme of the publication, appreciated idleness). In 1893 he founded To-Day, but had to withdraw from both publications because of financial difficulties and a libel suit.

In 1898, a short stay in Germany inspired Three Men on the Bummel, the sequel to Three Men in a Boat. While reintroducing the same characters in the setting of a foreign bicycle tour, the book was nonetheless unable to capture the life-force and historic roots of its predecessor, and it enjoyed only a mild success. In 1902 he published the novel Paul Kelver, which is widely regarded as autobiographical. His 1908 play The Passing of the Third Floor Back introduced a more sombre and religious Jerome. This was a tremendous commercial success but was condemned by critics – Max Beerbohm described it as "vilely stupid" and as written by a "tenth-rate writer".[4]

World War I and last years[edit]

Jerome's grave at Ewelme

Jerome volunteered to serve his country at the outbreak of the war, but, being 56 years old, was rejected by the British Army. Eager to serve in some capacity, he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the French Army.

In 1926, Jerome published his autobiography, My Life and Times. Shortly afterwards, the Borough of Walsall conferred on him the title Freeman of the Borough. During these last years, Jerome spent more time at his farmhouse in Ewelme near Wallingford.

In June 1927, on a motoring tour from Devon to London via Cheltenham and Northampton, Jerome suffered a paralytic stroke and a cerebral haemorrhage. He lay in Northampton General Hospital for two weeks before succumbing on 14 June.[5] He was cremated at Golders Green and his ashes buried at St Mary's Church, Ewelme, Oxfordshire. Elsie, Ettie, and his sister Blandina are buried beside him. A small museum dedicated to his life and works was opened in 1984 at his birth home in Walsall, but this closed in 2008. The contents were returned to Walsall Museum.

Legacy[edit]

  • There is a French graphic novel series named Jérôme K. Jérôme Bloche after the author.
  • A museum was opened in Walsall, his birthplace, in his honour in 1984.[6] (closed 2008).
  • A sculpture of a boat and a mosaic of a dog commemorate his book Three Men in a Boat on the Millennium Green in New Southgate, London, where he lived as a child.

Bibliography[edit]

Novels
Collections
  • Told After Supper (1891)
  • John Ingerfield: And Other Stories (1894)
  • Sketches in Lavender, Blue and Green (1895)
  • The Observations of Henry (1901)
  • The Angel and the Author and Others (1904)
  • American Wives and Others (1904)
  • The Passing of the Third Floor Back: And Other Stories (1907)
  • Malvina of Brittany (1916)
  • A miscellany of sense and nonsense from the writings of Jerome K. Jerome. Selected by the author with many apologies, with forty-three illustrations by Will Owen. 1924
  • Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel (1974)
  • After Supper Ghost Stories: And Other Tales (1985)
  • A Bicycle in Good Repair.
Autobiography
Anthologies containing stories by Jerome K. Jerome
  • Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror 1st Series (1928)
  • A Century of Humour (1934)
  • The Mammoth Book of Thrillers, Ghosts and Mysteries (1936)
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957)
  • Famous Monster Tales (1967)
  • The 5th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1969)
  • The Rivals of Frankenstein (1975)
  • The 17th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1981)
  • Stories in the Dark (1984)
  • Gaslit Nightmares (1988)
  • Horror Stories (1988)
  • 100 Tiny Tales of Terror (1996)
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog: How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last (1997)
  • Knights of Madness: Further Comic Tales of Fantasy (1998)
  • 100 Hilarious Little Howlers (1999)
Short stories
  • The Haunted Mill (1891)
  • The New Utopia (1891)
  • The Dancing Partner (1893)
  • Evergreens
  • Christmas Eve in the Blue Chamber
  • Silhouettes
  • The Skeleton
  • The Snake
  • The Woman of the Saeter
Plays
  • The Maister of Wood Barrow: play in three acts (1890)
  • The Night of 14 Feb.. 1899: a play in nine scenes
  • Miss Hobbs: a comedy in four acts (1902) - starring Evelyn Millard
  • Fanny and the Servant Problem, a quite possible play in four acts (1909)
  • The Master of Mrs. Chilvers: an improbable comedy, imagined by Jerome K. Jerome (1911)
  • The Soul Of Nicholas Snyders : A Mystery Play in Three Acts (1925)
  • The Celebrity: a play in three acts (1926)
  • Robina's Web ("The Dovecote", or "The grey feather"): a farce in four acts
  • The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1908) (adapted as a film first in 1918, and then again in 1935)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jerome, Jerome (1926). My Life and Times. Hodder & Stoughton. 
  2. ^ a b Oulton, Carolyn (2012) Below the Fairy City: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome. Victorian Secrets at Google Books. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  3. ^ Joseph Connolly. Jerome K. Jerome, p. 183
  4. ^ Jerome, Jerome (1982). "Introduction". Three Men in a Boat, Annotated and Introduced by Cristopher Matthew and Benny Green. Michael Joseph. ISBN 0-907516-08-4. 
  5. ^ Jerome K. Jerome: The Man, from the Jerome K. Jerome Society. Accessed 3 March 2012
  6. ^ Lambert, Tim "A Brief History of Walsall, England"

External links[edit]