In December 1889 the local journal Folkestone Visitors’ List and Society Journal (based in Tontine Street) reported excitedly that the humourist Robert Barr of the Detroit Free Press had just arrived in London and was planning an extended stay in Folkestone.1
A year later Barr was on a steamer from Folkestone to Boulogne with none other than Jerome K. Jerome, who had just published Three Men in a Boat, and who was less impressed than his friend by the pretensions of the resort. But as a friend of editor and journalist ‘Hal Berte’ (whose real name of John Brown somehow sounds almost more fictional than the pseudonym), Barr was quickly contributing articles to the Folkestone Visitor’s List and Society Journal. Gently mocking the aristocratic pretensions of a town where visitors not only expected to promenade on the Leas, but to do so in the right company, Barr breezily commented, ‘It is doubtless within the memory of the nobility and gentry of Folkestone, that I spent the summer there last year. I can prove this fact, because my name appeared in the Visitors’ List at the time, and if you don’t believe me you can look up the back numbers of that journal.’2
Jerome would go on to co-edit Barr’s new publication The Idler from 1892. While he later implied that they had had no previous relationship, he may have been remembering their earlier trip in his account of Folkestone in Three Men on the Bummel (1900):
‘There was a man at Folkestone; I used to meet him on the Lees. He proposed one evening we should go for a long bicycle ride together on the following day, and I agreed. I got up early, for me; I made an effort, and was pleased with myself. He came half an hour late: I was waiting for him in the garden.’3
While Barr fell out with Jerome and ultimately withdrew from his editorial role at _The Idler, he would contribute occasional articles to the Folkestone List until 1894.
[Berte, Hal]. ‘The Kaleidoscope’. Folkestone Visitors’ List and Society Journal.
Oulton, Carolyn W. de la L. Below the Fairy City: A Life of Jerome K. Jerome Brighton: Victorian Secrets, 2012.
Oulton, Carolyn W. de la L. Down From London: Seaside Reading in the Railway Age. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022.