‘you had an idea that we were rather frivolous': Jerome K. Jerome’s editorial strategies

Oulton, C. (2011) ‘you had an idea that we were rather frivolous': Jerome K. Jerome’s editorial strategies. In: RSVP Conference, 22nd-23rd July 2011, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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As the editor of The Idler (1892-1898) and To-day (1893-1898) Jerome K. Jerome posed as both ‘idler’ and social commentator, alternately providing his readership with comfortably masculine humour and informed debate on topical issues. The monthly Idlers’ Club affirmed conservative values relieved by scathing irony on such topics as the New Woman and the questionable practices of literary reviewing. But as Anne Humpherys astutely observes, ‘Jerome’s Idler is implicitly positioned against a life of “working”’, for whom the shared humour of the club provides transient relief from labour. As he assured Theodore Watts-Dunton in October 1892, ‘I knew you had an idea that we were rather frivolous on the “Idler” … we are striking a more serious note which will continue to sound louder through succeeding numbers.’

The focus of the weekly To-day is consciously London-centric. Like The Idler, it is implicitly based on the principle of a club, to which the readers gain membership (and from which they can even be expelled). Editorial control is exercised most obviously through the weekly editorials, but equally important was the correspondence column which became a key feature of To-Day. Jerome’s growing sense of the journal as a ‘club’ is most obvious in the title of this section, which begins as ‘Answers to Enquirers’ but becomes the more reciprocal ‘Correspondence’ after May 1895. In December 1896 he published a letter from a reader describing the journal as ‘our club’. In his last few months as editor he was developing a scheme to put lonely readers of the same sex in touch with each other, and grudgingly acknowledging the need for working London women to have clubs of their own.

Male or female, many of Jerome’s readers would not have access to the world of the London club, but the editorial voice of the journal encourages them to see themselves as a community, assuming a shared knowledge of particular theatres and streets. In this formulation provincial and overseas readers metaphorically become ‘branch members’, emphasising both the influence of the journal and its global reach.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN4699 Journalism. The periodical press, etc.
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English and Language Studies
Depositing User: Prof Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2012 15:19
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 14:10
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/10986

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00