Jerome Klapka Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927) was an English writer and humorist, best known for the humorous travelogue Three Men in a Boat.
Jerome was born in Caldmore, Walsall, England, and was brought up in poverty in London.
Other works include the essay collections Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow 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 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 suffered poverty, and debt collectors often visited, an experience Jerome described vividly in his autobiography My Life and Times (1926).
The young Jerome wished to go into politics or be a man of letters, but the death of his father at age 13, and his mother at 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
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 and with no evident success, the 21-year-old Jerome decided he had had enough with 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, a comic memoir of his experiences with the acting troupe. Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, a collection of humorous essays, followed in 1886 (see 1885 and 1886 in literature). On 21 June 1888, Jerome married Georgina Elizabeth Henrietta Stanley Marris (a.k.a. Ettie), nine days after she had 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," a fact which was to have a significant influence on his next, and most important work, Three Men in a Boat.
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