05 May 2010 – LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme

In the Foreword, Joseph Connolly puts this selection of essays from Jerome’s "Second Thoughts of An Idle Fellow" into context, explaining that it was written when Jerome was an older family man, who had just experienced a financial crisis which mellowed his humour and added an edge of melancholy and deep morality into his life and writing.  I would agree that those looking for the frivolity of "Three Men In A Boat" (which the author apparently came to dislike as it coloured people’s perception of his later work) would indeed find a change of pace and tone here.

That’s not to say that it’s all doom, morality and despair in this neatly and attractively packaged set of essays.  It opens with a hilariously observed scene in a haberdashery and lovely examples of how Jerome tried to work out what kind of a man to be as he was growing up.   ‘On the Disadvantages of Not Getting What One Wants’ has a timely discussion of settling for simpler things rather than yearning for celebrity and fortune.  ‘On The Exceptional Merit Attaching To the Things We Meant To Do’ starts well but goes off into a disquisition on ghosts and has to be dragged back to the point at the end, and I think this is the least successful and appealing of the essays.  Both ‘On The TIme Wasted In Looking Before One Leaps’ and ‘On The Inadvisability of Following Advice’ both have what I consider a good mix of humour and morality; I was glad to have had the context prepared for me by the Foreword.

In summary – if you think this is going to be all fun and games, you might be a bit disappointed.  If you love the essay form in general (the writing is beautiful and the structure generally very well done), the time period and the more mature Jerome, then you’ll like this a lot.  It certainly draws me back towards the first set of essays he published, "Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow".