Monday, February 13, 2017

After Supper Ghost Stories - Jerome K. Jerome

I have a cold at the moment, and although I know it (probably) won't kill me I always feel like it might. The result was that I spent the weekend feeling utterly miserable (I'll spare you a list of symptoms) and not doing any of the writing I had intended. What I did manage was to finally finish 'After Supper Ghost Stories', so that at least was something.

I read 'Three Men in a Boat' sometime in my teens, swiftly followed by 'Three Men on the Bummel', and what might well have been 'On the Stage and Off' (it was a slightly mouldy copy found in an old box of books and general jumble very many summers ago) and enjoyed all three enough to retain a fondness for Jerome K. Jerome. It was certainly enough to make me look forward to this book with keen anticipation- and the first part more than lived up to those expectations.

The first part contains the after super ghost stories of the title, and makes roughly a third of the book. It's. Christmas Eve, because that's when the best Victorian ghost stories were told, they take care to tick of all the cliches, everyone telling them is very drunk, and perhaps especially as someone who has been subjected to many hours of youthful tuneless carol singers, I found them very, very, funny. Read out loud to an audience funny - and happily the audience agreed with me.

The rest of the book contains half a dozen essays on various subjects, all of which are amusing, but none of which came close to the After Dinner bit for me. They're well chosen pieces, some of seem almost eerily prescient (as in 'Clocks' where he says 'Truth and fact are old fashioned and out of date, my friends, fit only for the full and vulgar to live by. Appearance, not reality, is what the clever dog grasps at in these clever days.' It goes on like this for another page, every word feeling like it could have been written specifically for our own current affairs. I read all of this out to a different audience and got them to guess when it was written, or who it might be talking about. Nobody got it right, it was somewhat depressing to realise how little changes.

The problem for me though was this; when Jerome sets out to be funny he's hard to beat, but when he's making a wider point some of the sparkle is lost. That said, whilst the After Supper ghost stories are an absolute comic classic (more than worth the price of this beautifully produced book on their own - and it's a very pretty book) the rest of the essays are well worth reading. Their combination of humour, observation, and opinion has plenty to offer, and have given me a rather more rounded view of Jerome K. Jerome as a writer.


  1. I got this for Christmas! I haven't read it yet but was half planning to save it for December, but maybe I won't wait that long. Three Men in a Boat is one of my all-time favorites but I've read little of his other works. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. It's a lovely book to hold isn't it! I wouldnt wait, but I might suggest reading the essays first and the ghost stories after - I'm also more than half inclined to read the ghost stories annually now, possibly on Christmas Eve, and ideally aloud with someone else. That's how funny I found them!

  3. Funny ghost stories - they do sound good. Do you know I read 'Three Men in a Boat' and can't remember whether I enjoyed it or not, which seems odd...

  4. I remember I liked it, and that there were 3 men. In a boat. On the Thames? But not much else, and that's my problem with the essays. There are beautifully funny bits in them which make me laugh out loud, mostly observational, but nothing I found very memorable. The description of drunks telling ghost stories was something else though (I really love this sequence of stories).