Jerome K Jerome
Writer and humorist. Lived in Marlow for some years. Ashes buried at St.Mary’s Church, Ewelme, near Wallingford.
Link with the Chilterns
Lived in Marlow for some years. Ashes buried at St.Mary’s Church, Ewelme, near Wallingford.
2nd May 1859
14th June 1927
Jerome Klapka Jerome was born in Caldmore, Walsall, the fourth child of Jerome, an ironmonger, and Marguerite. He had two sisters, Paulina and Blandina, and a brother Milton, who died at an early age. Due to bad investments in the local mining industry, the family incurred debts, and Jerome was brought up in poverty.
The death of both his parents in 1872 when he was 13 forced the young Jerome to quit his studies and find work to support himself. He was employed at theLondonand North Western Railway, initially collecting coal that fell along the railway, and remained there for four years. In 1877, he joined a repertory troupe, but after three years on the road with no evident success, decided he’d had enough of stage life and tried other occupations. Over the next few years he was a journalist, teacher, packer and solicitor’s clerk. Finally, in 1885 he had some success with On the Stage-and Off, a humorous book, which opened the door for more plays and essays.
On 21st June 1888 Jerome married Georgina Marris (known as Ettie), nine days after she had divorced her first husband. She had a daughter, also christened Georgina, but known as Elsie. The honeymoon was spent on the Thames and Jerome began writing Three Men in a Boat on his return. The book appeared in 1889 and made him rich and famous. He became part of the literary establishment and was good friends with J.M.Barrie, H.G.Wells, and Rudyard Kipling. He went on to write a number of plays, essays and novels; edited a monthly satirical magazine The Idler, and founded and edited the weekly To-Day until 1898.
At the outbreak of The First World War, he volunteered for active service, but was rejected because of his age. He then enlisted in the French army as an ambulance driver. The war experience was said to have changed him, as did the death of his stepdaughter, Elsie, in 1921. He published his autobiography My Life and Times in 1926, but makes little mention of his family and domestic details. However, there is some evidence from correspondence to suggest that he lived at a house called Monks Corner, near Marlow, between May 1910-December 1916; Wood End House, Marlow, between August 1919-February 1920; and Ridge End, Marlow Common between August 1920-April 1923. He also lived at a farmhouse near Ewelme.
He died in June 1927 and was cremated at Golders Green. His ashes were buried at St. Mary’s Church, Ewelme.
Though a relaxed, urbane man, Jerome was a relentless explorer of new ideas and experiences. He travelled widely throughout Europe ,was a pioneer of ski-ing in the Alps , and visited Russia and America several times. He was a prolific writer, whose work has been translated into many foreign languages, but as he himself said, “It is as the author of Three Men in a Boat that the public persists in remembering me.”
Autobiography: My Life and Times. Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1926.
Jerome K.Jerome – A Critical Biography by Joseph Connolly. Published by Orbis Publishing in 1982.
What you can visit
Grave at St. Mary’s Church, Ewelme.