Jerome K. Jerome

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Jerome Klapka Jerome (1859-1927) was an English humourist and author, best known for the comic travelogue Three Men in a Boat (to say Nothing of the Dog). Jerome was born in Walsall, Staffordshire on 2 May 1859, but while he was a small child his family moved to London. His parents both died young and by the age of fifteen he was working as a railway clerk, but later supplemented this by earnings from part-time acting and writing. His first work of stage anecdotes On the Stage - and Off (1885) earned him little but helped make him a name; in the later 1880s he was to achieve lasting fame with Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1889), and, the same year, Three Men in a Boat. Genteel critics scorned Three Men in a Boat - the story of a holiday on the River Thames taken by three city clerks, and based on Jerome's own adventures with his friends Carl Hentschel (Harris) and George Wingrave (George) (the dog, Montmorency, was a figment of Jerome's imagination). The three were to appear again in Three Men on the Bummel (1900), when Harris, George and Jerome, nearing middle age, escape the tyranny of family life on a bicycle tour of Germany and Bohemia. Germany figure also in the light-hearted Diary of a Pilgrimage (1891), in which Jerome and a companion travel to see the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria. Jerome's works contain stringent but affectionate portraits of German life. The outbreak of the First World War caused him particular sorrow, but, rejected by the British armed forces on grounds of age, he joined the French Army as an ambulance driver and saw active service on the Western Front. Jerome died on 14 June 1927 and is buried in the churchyard at Ewelme, Oxfordshire, close to the Thames that he loved.

His works often contained overtly religious material. Diary of a Pilgrimage contains descriptions of the Passion Plays and of Jerome's own reactions to the play and its material. A later success, The Passing of the Third Floor Back and Other Stories (1907, and turned the same year into a long-running play) is an allegory in which a Christ-like stranger transforms the life of dwellers in a London boarding house.