Jerome K. Jerome

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.

Jerome Klapka Jerome
Photograph of Jerome published in the 1890s
Photograph of Jerome published in the 1890s
Born2 May 1859
Caldmore, Walsall, Staffordshire, England
Died14 June 1927 (aged 68)
Northampton General Hospital, Northampton
Resting placeSt Mary's Church, Ewelme, Oxfordshire.
OccupationAuthor, playwright, editor

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), 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, 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).[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 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,[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

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 to films, TV and radio shows, stage plays, and a musical. Its writing style influenced many humorists 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.

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 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. 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".[4]

World War I and last years

Jerome Klapka Jerome - - 1604687
Jerome's grave at Ewelme (2009)

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 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.[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. 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.


  • 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.
  • There is an English Heritage blue plaque which reads 'Jerome K. Jerome 1859-1927 Author Wrote 'Three Men in a Boat' while living here at flat 104' at 104 Chelsea Gardens, Chelsea Bridge Road, London, United Kingdom. It was erected in 1989.[7]
  • There is a beer company named Cerveza Jerome in Mendoza, Argentina. Its founder was a fan of Three Men in a Boat.[8]
  • A building at Walsall Campus, University of Wolverhampton is named after him.


  • Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886)
  • Told After Supper (1891)
  • John Ingerfield: And Other Stories (1894)
  • Sketches in Lavender, Blue, and Green (1895)
  • Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1898)
  • The Observations of Henry (1901)
  • The Angel and the Author – and Others (1904) (20 essays)
  • American Wives – and Others (1904) (25 essays, comprising 5 from The Angel and the Author, and 20 from Idle Ideas in 1905).
  • Idle Ideas in 1905 (1905)
  • 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
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)
  • Knights of Madness: Further Comic Tales of Fantasy (1998)
  • 100 Hilarious Little Howlers (1999)
Short stories
  • The Haunted Mill (1891)
  • The New Utopia[9] (1891)
  • The Dancing Partner (1893)
  • Evergreens
  • Christmas Eve in the Blue Chamber
  • Silhouettes
  • The Skeleton
  • The Snake
  • The Woman of the Saeter
  • Pity is Akin to Love (1888)[10]
  • New Lamps for Old (1890)
  • The Maister of Wood Barrow: play in three acts (1890)
  • What Women Will Do (1890)
  • Birth and Breeding (1890) – based on Die Ehre, produced in New York in 1895 as "Honour"
  • The Rise of Dick Halward (1895), produced in New York the previous year as "The Way to Win a Woman"
  • The MacHaggis (1897)
  • John Ingerfield (1899)
  • The Night of 14 Feb.. 1899: a play in nine scenes
  • Miss Hobbs: a comedy in four acts (1902) – starring Evelyn Millard
  • Tommy (1906)
  • Sylvia of the Letters (1907)
  • 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)
  • Esther Castways (1913)
  • The Great Gamble (1914)
  • The Three Patriots (1915)
  • 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) (the basis of a 1918 film and a 1935 film)
  • The Night of Feb. 14th 1899never produced[10]
  • A Russian Vagabondnever produced
  • The Disagreeable Mannever produced

See also


  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"
  7. ^ Open Plaques "Open Plaques - Jerome K. Jerome"
  8. ^ Los Andes "Viaje Favorito"
  9. ^ Published in Diary of a Pilgrimage (and Six Essays).(full text)
  10. ^ a b "Unpublished plays by Jerome". 23 August 2013.

External links

All Roads Lead to Calvary (film)

All Roads Lead to Calvary is a 1921 British silent drama film directed by Kenelm Foss and starring Minna Grey, Bertram Burleigh and Mary Odette. It is partly based on the 1919 novel of the same name by Jerome K. Jerome. A fisherman becomes a Member of Parliament, but is torn between his career, mistress and wife.

All Roads Lead to Calvary (novel)

All Roads Lead to Calvary is a 1919 novel by the British writer Jerome K. Jerome. It was one of the last works written by Jerome, better known for his Three Men in a Boat, and shows the influence of the First World War on him. It is a Bildungsroman in which a Cambridge University educated woman Joan Allway becomes a journalist and then a wartime ambulance driver. She encounters various different people, gaining new experiences and confronting many of the moral issues of the day.

Black and White (magazine)

Black and White: A Weekly Illustrated Record and Review was a British illustrated weekly periodical founded in 1891 by Charles Norris Williamson. In 1912 it was incorporated with The Sphere.

In its first year Black and White published 'A Straggler of '15', a short story by Conan Doyle, and began serializing 'The South Seas', a series of letters by Robert Louis Stevenson. It published fiction by Henry James, Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells, Robert Barr, A. E. W. Mason, Jerome K. Jerome and E. Nesbit. Others who wrote for Black and White included Samuel Bensusan (1872–1958), Philip Howard Colomb, Nora Hopper, Henry Dawson Lowry (1869–1906), Robert Wilson Lynd and Barry Pain. May Sinclair published her first short story, 'A Study From Life', in the magazine in November 1895. The periodical carried art by Harry Furniss, Mortimer Menpes and Richard Caton Woodville, and photography by Horace Nicholls.Oswald Crawfurd (1834–1909) was a director of Black and White on its establishment. Eden Philpotts worked as part-time assistant editor in the 1890s, and Arthur Mee worked as an editor in the late 1890s.The British Library has a complete run of Black and White.

Diary of a Pilgrimage

Diary of a Pilgrimage is a novel by Jerome K. Jerome published in 1891. It tells of a trip undertaken by Jerome and his friend "B" to see the Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany.

Drei Mann in einem Boot

Drei Mann in einem Boot (English: Three Men in a boat) 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 British novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.The film is also known as Drei Mann in einem Boot. Vom Hunde ganz zu schweigen (long West German title).

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

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 essays had previously appeared in Home Chimes, the same magazine that later serialised Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.

J. W. Arrowsmith

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.

The company published the first edition of the novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome in 1889. Also published by J. W. Arrowsmith were:

Called Back by Hugh Conway (1883)

Diary of a Pilgrimage by Jerome K. Jerome (1891)

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (1892)

Rupert of Hentzau by Anthony Hope (1898)

Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome (1900)

Miss Hobbs

Miss Hobbs is a 1920 American comedy film directed by Donald Crisp and written by Elmer Blaney Harris. The film stars Wanda Hawley, Harrison Ford, Helen Jerome Eddy, Walter Hiers, Julanne Johnston and Emily Chichester. The film was released on May 19, 1920, by Realart Pictures Corporation.

Paul Kelver

Paul Kelver is a 1902 autobiographical novel by Jerome K. Jerome (best known for Three Men in a Boat).

From the novel, a passage which seems to refer to Jerome's coming of age:

Returning home on this particular day of days, I paused upon the bridge, and watched for a while the lazy barges maneuvering their way between the piers. It was one of those hushed summer evenings when the air even of grim cities is full of whispering voices; and as, turning away from the river, I passed through the white toll-gate, I had a sense of leaving myself behind me on the bridge. So vivid was the impression, that I looked back, half expecting to see myself still leaning over the iron parapet, looking down into the sunlit water.

The Idler (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.

The Passing of the Third Floor Back

The Passing of the Third Floor Back is a 1935 British drama film directed by Berthold Viertel and starring Conrad Veidt, Anna Lee, Rene Ray and Frank Cellier. The film is based on a 1908 play and short story by Jerome K. Jerome and depicts the various small-minded inhabitants of a building and the arrival of a stranger who works to redeem them. The work had previously been adapted into a 1918 film version by Herbert Brenon.

The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1918 film)

The Passing of the Third Floor Back is a 1918 British/American silent allegorical film based on the 1908 play The Passing of the Third Floor Back by Jerome K. Jerome and directed by Herbert Brenon. The star of the film is Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, a legendary Shakespearean actor, who starred in the 1909 Broadway presentation of the play and its 1913 revival. Forbes-Robertson had been knighted by King George V in 1913 and had retired from acting in theatre that same year. In his retirement Forbes-Robertson had only dabbled in film acting making a 1913 film version of Hamlet, the most famous role he had played on the stage. Filmed in 1916, it was released in 1918.

Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), 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.The three men are based on Jerome himself (the narrator Jerome K. Jerome) and two real-life friends, George Wingrave (who would become a senior manager at Barclays Bank) and Carl Hentschel (the founder of a London printing business, called Harris in the book), with whom Jerome often took boating trips. The dog, Montmorency, is entirely fictional but, "as Jerome admits, developed out of that area of inner consciousness which, in all Englishmen, contains an element of the dog". The trip is a typical boating holiday of the time in a Thames camping skiff. This was just after commercial boat traffic on the Upper Thames had died out, replaced by the 1880s craze for boating as a leisure activity.Following the overwhelming success of Three Men in a Boat, Jerome later published a sequel, about a cycling tour in Germany, titled Three Men on the Bummel (also known as Three Men on Wheels, 1900).

Three Men in a Boat (1920 film)

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 novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. The screenplay concerns three friends who go on a boating holiday.

Three Men in a Boat (1933 film)

Three Men in a Boat is a 1933 British comedy film directed by Graham Cutts and starring William Austin, Edmund Breon, Billy Milton and Davy Burnaby. It is based on the novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome which depicts three men and a dog's adventure during a boat trip along the River Thames.

Three Men in a Boat (1956 film)

Three Men in a Boat is a 1956 British CinemaScope colour comedy film directed by Ken Annakin and starring Laurence Harvey, Jimmy Edwards, Shirley Eaton and David Tomlinson. It is based on the 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. The film received mixed reviews, but was a commercial success.

Three Men in a Boat (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.

Michael Palin played in this film just as he was establishing his post-Monty Python career, and the film has "glints of Python-like silliness throughout".

Three Men in a Boat (1979 film)

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (Russian: Трое в лодке, не считая собаки, translit. Troe v lodke, ne schitaya sobaki) is a 1979 Soviet two-part musical-comedy miniseries directed by Naum Birman and based on the eponymous novel by Jerome K. Jerome.

Three Men on the Bummel

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."[1] 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.[2]

Works by Jerome K. Jerome
Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (1889)

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