Biography of Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927)
Jerome K. Jerome
Jerome K. Jerome is a British writer of the Victorian period, best known for his comic novels. His most famous and enduring work is Three Men in a Boat.
Jerome Klapka Jerome was born in the village of Caldmore, near Birmingham in Central England. Jerome’s father was an ironmonger and a non-conformist preacher. The family enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle for many years, although a series of bad investments forced them into poverty when Jerome was two years old. Because of this, the family had to leave their house, and Jerome spent his childhood as a poor boy (“Jerome the Man”). Jerome’s financial situation went from bad to worse at age 13, when his father died. Two years later, his mother passed away, and Jerome was forced to drop out of grammar school to work menial jobs.
Despite these difficult circumstances, Jerome developed a passion for literature, politics, and the theatre. In his late teens and twenties, he held a variety of jobs including acting, journalism, and teaching school. He was not particularly successful at any of these occupations.
Jerome finally broke through creatively in 1885, when he published a memoir about his time working for a low-budget theatre troupe. He then began to publish comedic essays in a magazine called Home Chimes.
He married his wife, Georgina, in 1888, and they spent their honeymoon rowing on the Thames. Their trip inspired his most successful work, Three Men in a Boat, which was serialized in Home Chimes in 1889. Although Three Men in a Boat was poorly received by critics, it was immensely popular among readers of all social classes. Royalties from the book ensured Jerome financial freedom for the rest of his life. He devoted himself to writing full-time, although he remained critically unpopular and his later works sold inconsistently. Jerome published a sequel to Three Men in a Boat called Three Men on the Bummel in 1898, but it garnered mixed reviews and mediocre sales.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Jerome was eager to contribute to the war effort. Because he was too old to join the British military, he drove an ambulance for the French throughout the war. He returned to England traumatized, and was further psychologically damaged by the death of his beloved stepdaughter, Elsie. Jerome wrote an autobiography in 1926, and died in 1927 of a stroke.