"You’ll find when you get home,” I said, “she has thought of one other thing.”
“What’s that?” said Harris.
“A house at Folkestone for the season.”
“What should she want a house at Folkestone for?” said Harris.
"To live in,” I suggested, “during the summer months.”
“She’s going to her people in Wales,” said Harris, “for the holidays, with the children; we’ve had an invitation.”
“Possibly,” I said, “she’ll go to Wales before she goes to Folkestone, or maybe she’ll take Wales on her way home; but she’ll want a house at Folkestone for the season, notwithstanding. I may be mistaken—I hope for your sake that I am — but I feel a presentiment that I’m not.”
“This trip,” said Harris, “is going to be expensive.”
“It was an idiotic suggestion,” I said, “from the beginning.”
Three Men on the Bummel
Watching Folkestone from a steamer in the summer of 1891, the writer Robert Barr quotes Jerome as saying, ‘There is too much blamed much respectability there for me. I like a place where you don’t need to wear a collar and where you can “mooch” around.’
Three Men on the Bummel (1900) sees the cast of Three Men in a Boat reunited for a bicycling holiday in the Black Forest, the price they pay being their wives’ demand for various home improvements and a female-only holiday in Folkestone.
In one of the best comic set pieces Jerome briefly references the ultra-respectable Leas, as the place where his alter ego J meets the man who will go on to destroy his bicycle by ‘overhauling’ it.
He said: “This front wheel wobbles.”
I said: “It doesn’t if you don’t wobble it.” It didn’t wobble, as a matter of fact—nothing worth calling a wobble.
He said: “This is dangerous; have you got a screw-hammer?”
As J ruefully admits, ‘I ought to have been firm, but I thought that perhaps he really did know something about the business.’
But 'Before I could stop him he had unscrewed something somewhere, and out rolled all over the path some dozen or so little balls.
"Catch ’em!" he shouted; "catch ’em! We mustn’t lose any of them."
He was quite excited about them. We grovelled round for half an hour, and found sixteen.'
Nothing daunted, J’s new acquaintance next proposes ‘that while he was about it he would see to the chain for me, and at once began taking off the gear-case. I did try to persuade him from that.’
By the end of it the hapless owner has lost all hope, and admits to the reader that ‘My pride in the machine he had killed. My only interest lay now in seeing him scratch and bump and pinch himself.’ But his sarcastic comment that ‘It is not only your skill and dexterity that fascinates me, it is your cheery confidence in yourself, your inexplicable hopefulness, that does me good’ is clearly wasted on the author of his misfortunes, and finally the bicycle is sold off at a loss to a local dealer.
Oulton, C. (2012) Below the fairy city: a life of Jerome K. Jerome Victorian Secrets. Oulton, Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton. Down from London: Seaside Reading in the Railway Age. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022.
Sharp, Luke Robert Barr. ‘A search for a half-crown’. Folkestone Visitors’ List and Society Journal. 27 May 1891. 9-11.
Three Men on the Bummel.
Victorian Secrets: Jerome K. Jerome