Jerome K. Jerome as journal publisher: A Letter
After many years, I’ve finally framed and put up on our cafe wall a revealing letter from Jerome K. Jerome, celebrated for his classic of heavy humour Three Men in a Boat. Less well known, but well worth reading for its insight into Germany before the first war (and today) is Three Men on the Bummel. His wonderfully and, most rarely, classless leading characters must have endeared his writing to that other celebrant of us classless ones who do the work, Erich Kästner, author not only of Emil und die Detektiven , but also ofDrei Männer im Schnee .
I could go on about this, bringing in a real heavyweight, H.G.Wells, but instead I’ll just quote the letter.
The letter is written as two pages on a single “portrait” sheet of notepaper, with the decorative heading:
The Idler Illustrated Monthly Edited byJerome K. Jerome and Robert Parr 310, Strand, London 189..
The date has been completed to 21st. June, 1892
Dear Mr. Colles,
Thanks very much for getting Mr. Hall Caine’s article. I have had it set up, I am reading it with immense interest.
As to price, I don’t know Mr. Caine’s ideas, but do you think he would accept forty pounds for the article, this to include our right to publish it later on together with the series in book form as in the case of Mr. Pryn and Mr. Besant. I say £40 because I feel grateful to Mr. Caine for having assisted us, & part of the gratitude is supplied by the hope that I maty get something further out of him later. It is something more than double the price we have paid to any other gentleman. Would Mr. Caine do you think later on be writing any short stories that he would let us have the British serial rights of?
Jerome K. Jerome
W Francis Collis Esq.
I have not managed to locate any reference to this Mr. Colles; Jerome is very meticulous in dotting his i’s; the e is not dotted. The figure of £50 would equate to between £2500 and £5000 today, which would now be a phenomenal sum (I beieve) for a journal article, rights or no, and more in line with TV appearance fees, as one would expect.
I will append some more links and a photograph when I have time.
DJM August 2009