Jerome K. Jerome

Last updated

Jerome K. Jerome
Jerome K. Jerome (7893553318).jpg
Photograph of Jerome published in the 1890s
BornJerome Clapp Jerome
(1859-05-02)2 May 1859
Caldmore, Walsall, Staffordshire, England
Died14 June 1927(1927-06-14) (aged 68)
Northampton General Hospital, Northampton
Resting placeSt Mary's Church, Ewelme, Oxfordshire.
OccupationAuthor, playwright, editor
GenreHumour

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

Contents

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

Jerome was born in Caldmore, Walsall, England. He was the fourth child of Marguerite Jones and Jerome Clapp (who later renamed himself Jerome Clapp Jerome), [1] an ironmonger and lay preacher who dabbled in architecture. He had two sisters, Paulina and Blandina, and one brother, Milton, who died at an early age. Jerome was registered as Jerome Clapp Jerome, [2] like his father's amended name, and the Klapka appears to be a later variation (after the exiled Hungarian general György Klapka). The family fell into poverty owing to bad investments in the local mining industry, and debt collectors visited often, an experience that Jerome described vividly in his autobiography My Life and Times (1926). [3]

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 Jerome was 13 and of his mother when he was 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 he remained there for four years.

Acting career and early literary works

Jerome was inspired by his older sister Blandina's love for the theatre, and he decided to try his hand at acting in 1877, 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 that he 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 , [4] the same magazine that would later serialise Three Men in a Boat. [4]

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," [5] 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

Jerome in about 1889 Jerome-k-jerome.jpg
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 has never been out of 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 into films, TV, radio shows, stage plays, and even a musical. Its writing style has influenced many humourists and satirists in England and elsewhere.

With the financial security that 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.

Jerome's play Biarritz had a run of two months at the Prince of Wales Theatre between April and June 1896. [6]

In 1898, a short stay in Germany inspired Three Men on the Bummel , the sequel to Three Men in a Boat, reintroducing the same characters in the setting of a foreign bicycle tour. The book was nonetheless unable quite to recapture the sheer comic energy and historic rootedness of its celebrated predecessor (lacking as it does the unifying thread that is the river Thames itself) and it has enjoyed only modest success by comparison. This said, some of the individual comic vignettes that make up "Bummel" are as fine as (or even finer than) those of "Boat". [7]

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. The main character was played by one of the leading actors of the time, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, and the play was a tremendous commercial success. It was twice made into film, in 1918 and in 1935. However, the play was condemned by critics – Max Beerbohm described it as "vilely stupid" and as written by a "tenth-rate writer". [8]

World War I and last years

Jerome's grave at Ewelme (2009) Jerome Klapka Jerome - geograph.org.uk - 1604687.jpg
Jerome's grave at Ewelme (2009)

Jerome volunteered to serve his country at the outbreak of the war, but, being 55 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 Gould's Grove southeast of Ewelme near Wallingford.

Jerome suffered a paralytic stroke and a cerebral haemorrhage in June 1927, on a motoring tour from Devon to London via Cheltenham and Northampton. He lay in Northampton General Hospital for two weeks before dying on 14 June. [9] 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. His gravestone reads "For we are labourers together with God". A small museum dedicated to his life and works was opened in 1984 at his birth home in Walsall, but it closed in 2008, and the contents were returned to Walsall Museum.

Legacy

Bibliography

Novels
Collections
Autobiography
Anthologies containing stories by Jerome K. Jerome
Short stories
Plays

See also

Related Research Articles

Eden Phillpotts

Eden Phillpotts was an English author, poet and dramatist. He was born in Mount Abu, India, was educated in Plymouth, Devon, and worked as an insurance officer for 10 years before studying for the stage and eventually becoming a writer.

Ian Carmichael

Ian Gillett Carmichael, OBE was an English actor. He had roles in the films of the Boulting brothers, including Private's Progress (1956) and I'm All Right Jack (1959), and later played Dorothy L. Sayers's gentleman detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, on television and radio. Carmichael also had a career on stage.

Humorist Intellectual who uses humor in writing or public speaking

A humorist or humourist is an intellectual who uses humor in writing or public speaking, but is not an artist who seeks only to elicit laughs. Humorists are distinct from comedians, who are show business entertainers whose business is to make an audience laugh. It is possible to play both roles in the course of a career.

Scolds bridle 16th-century instrument of punishment or [[torture]]

A scold's bridle, sometimes called a witch's bridle, a brank's bridle, or simply branks, was an instrument of punishment, as a form of torture and public humiliation. The device was an iron muzzle in an iron framework that enclosed the head. A bridle-bit, about 2 in × 1 in in size, was slid into the mouth and either pressed down on top of the tongue as a compress or used to raise the tongue to lie flat on the wearer's palate. This prevented speaking and resulted in many unpleasant side effects for the wearer, including excessive salivation and fatigue in the mouth.

<i>Three Men in a Boat</i>

Three Men in a Boat , published in 1889, is a humorous account by English writer Jerome K. Jerome of a two-week boating holiday on the Thames from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford and back to Kingston. The book was initially intended to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history along the route, but the humorous elements took over to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages seem a distraction to the comic novel. One of the most praised things about Three Men in a Boat is how undated it appears to modern readers – the jokes have been praised as fresh and witty.

<i>To Say Nothing of the Dog</i> Novel by Connie Willis

To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last is a 1997 comic science fiction novel by Connie Willis. It used the same setting which includes time-traveling historians she explored in her story Fire Watch and novels Doomsday Book (1992) and Blackout/All Clear (2010).

Caldmore Place in West Midlands, England

Caldmore is one of the villages that make up the town of Walsall.

<i>Three Men on the Bummel</i>

Three Men on the Bummel 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 .

<i>Psmith in the City</i> 1910 novel by P.G. Wodehouse

Psmith in the City is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, first published on 23 September 1910 by Adam & Charles Black, London. The story was originally released as a serial in The Captain magazine, between October 1908 and March 1909, under the title The New Fold.

<i>The Idler</i> (1892–1911)

The Idler was an illustrated monthly magazine published in Great Britain from 1892 to 1911. It was founded by the author Robert Barr, who brought in the humorist Jerome K. Jerome as co-editor, and its contributors included many of the leading writers and illustrators of the time.

<i>Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow</i>

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, published in 1886, is a collection of humorous essays by Jerome K. Jerome. It was the author’s second published book and it helped establish him as a leading English humorist. While widely considered one of Jerome’s better works, and in spite of using the same style as Three Men in a Boat, it was never as popular as the latter. A second "Idle Thoughts" book, The Second Thoughts of An Idle Fellow, was published in 1898.

The Barley Mow, Clifton Hampden

The Barley Mow is a historic public house, just south of the River Thames near the bridge at Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, England.

A Thames skiff is a traditional River Thames wooden rowing boat used for the activity of skiffing. These boats evolved from Thames wherries in the Victorian era to meet a passion for river exploration and leisure outings on the water.

Drei Mann in einem Boot is a 1961 German / Austrian comedy film directed by Helmut Weiss and starring Walter Giller, Heinz Erhardt, Hans-Joachim Kulenkampff and Susanne Cramer. The film is based on the 1889 British novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.

J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd

J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd was a book printer and publisher based in Bristol, England. It became a limited company in 1911, having been an unincorporated company named Arrowsmith. It was closed in 2006.

Three Men in a Boat is a 1920 British silent comedy film directed by Challis Sanderson and starring Lionelle Howard, Manning Haynes and Johnny Butt. It is an adaptation of the 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. The screenplay concerns three friends who go on a boating holiday.

Home Chimes was a London magazine published between 1884 and 1894 by Richard Willoughby, and edited by F. W. Robinson. Originally published as a weekly, it was published as a monthly from January 1886.

<i>Three Men in a Boat</i> (1975 film)

Three Men in a Boat is a 1975 BBC comedy film adapted by Tom Stoppard, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Tim Curry, Michael Palin, and Stephen Moore. It is based on the 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.

<i>Three Men in a Boat</i> (1979 film)

Three Men in a Boat is a 1979 Soviet two-part musical-comedy miniseries directed by Naum Birman and based on the eponymous 1889 novel by Jerome K. Jerome.

Two and a Half Men in a Boat is a 1993 travelogue book written by English novelist, screenwriter and playwright Nigel Williams describing his travel on the Thames inspired by Jerome K. Jerome's book Three Men in a Boat. The book has been described as"a whimsical account of a lazy trip up the Thames with friends" but was written to pay a tax bill of £28,000. Like Jerome, Williams travels in a skiff with his dog Badger and two friends, BBC executive Alan and professional explorer John Paul, called JP. The book describes their journey, with frequent references to Jerome and his book.

References

  1. Oulton, Carolyn (2012). Below the Fairy City: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome . Victorian Secrets. p. 22. ISBN   1906469377.
  2. Oulton, Carolyn (2012). Below the Fairy City: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome . Victorian Secrets. p. 23. ISBN   1906469377.
  3. Jerome, Jerome (1926). My Life and Times. Hodder & Stoughton.
  4. 1 2 Oulton, Carolyn (2012) Below the Fairy City: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome. Victorian Secrets at Google Books. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  5. Joseph Connolly. Jerome K. Jerome, p. 183
  6. J. P. Wearing, The London Stage 1890-1899: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel (Scarecrow Press, 2013), p. 291
  7. Jeremy Nicholas: Three Men in a Boat and on the Bummel—The story behind Jerome's two comic masterpieces
  8. 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.
  9. Jerome K. Jerome: The Man, from the Jerome K. Jerome Society. Accessed 3 March 2012
  10. Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl — Odd Ends Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Lambert, Tim "A Brief History of Walsall, England"
  12. Open Plaques "Open Plaques - Jerome K. Jerome"
  13. Los Andes "Viaje Favorito"
  14. Published in Diary of a Pilgrimage (and Six Essays).(full text)
  15. 1 2 "Unpublished plays by Jerome". 23 August 2013.