Born into a middle class family, Jerome’s family fell into poverty during his youth. Though he had aspired to go into politics or academia, the death of both of his parents before the age of fifteen prevented him. Instead, he was forced to quite school and work to support himself.
Jerome began work collecting coal for a railway. At nineteen, encouraged by his older sister, he found work as an actor. After two years of acting, he quit the stage entirely — it didn’t make enough money for him to live on. Over the next few years, he tried writing between a series of other jobs. Most of his work was rejected.
He had some success when he wrote about acting. He also found success in the publication of Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. After his marriage, he wrote Three Men in a Boat, which was a wildly popular. That brought him financial security. He also secured a position editing for The Idler.
Jerome also wrote for theatre and found his works adapted for stage, radio, and film. He volunteered as an ambulance driver during World War I, being too old for service.
Jerome died in 1927 of a paralytic stroke and cerebral hemorrhage.