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Kenneth Grahame

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Genre  Fiction
Name  Kenneth Grahame

Role  Writer
Plays  The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame BBC Rare copy of Wind in the Willows in London auction

Born  8 March 1859Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (1859-03-08)
Occupation  Children's authorBanker
Notable works  The Wind in the Willows (1908)
Died  July 6, 1932, Pangbourne, United Kingdom
Movies  The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Books  The Reluctant Dragon, The Golden Age, Dream Days, Pagan Papers, The river bank
Similar People  Frances Hodgson Burnett, A A Milne, E H Shepard, J M Barrie, Lewis Carroll

Author: Kenneth GRAHAME

Wind in Willows author Kenneth Grahame by Michael Parkinson

Kenneth Grahame ( ; 8 March 1859 – 6 July 1932) was a Scottish writer, most famous for The Wind in the Willows (1908), one of the classics of children's literature. He also wrote The Reluctant Dragon; both books were later adapted for stage and film, of which A.A. Milne's Toad of Toad Hall was the first, and the Disney films, which are The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and The Reluctant Dragon are best known.


Early life

Kenneth Grahame was born on 8 March 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he was a little more than a year old, his father, an advocate, received an appointment as sheriff-substitute in Argyllshire at Inveraray on Loch Fyne. Kenneth loved the sea and was happy there, but when he was five, his mother died of puerperal fever, and his father, who had a drinking problem, gave over care of Kenneth, his brother Willie, his sister Helen and the new baby Roland to Granny Ingles, the children's grandmother, in Cookham Dean in the village of Cookham in Berkshire.

There the children lived in a spacious, if dilapidated, home, The Mount, on spacious grounds in idyllic surroundings, and were introduced to the riverside and boating by their uncle, David Ingles, curate at Cookham Dean church. This ambiance, particularly Quarry Wood and the River Thames, is believed, by Peter Green, his biographer, to have inspired the setting for The Wind in the Willows. He was an outstanding pupil at St Edward's School in Oxford. During his early years at St Edwards, a sports regimen had not been established and the boys had freedom to explore the old city with its quaint shops, historic buildings, and cobblestone streets, St Giles' Fair, the upper reaches of the Thames, and the nearby countryside.


Grahame wanted to attend Oxford University, but was not allowed to do so by his guardian on grounds of cost. Instead he was sent to work at the Bank of England in 1879, and rose through the ranks until retiring as its Secretary in 1908 due to ill health, which may have been precipitated by a strange, possibly political, shooting incident at the bank in 1903. Grahame was shot at three times, all shots missing. An alternative explanation, given in a letter on display in the Bank museum, is that he had quarrelled with Walter Cunliffe, one of the bank's directors, who would later become Governor of the Bank of England, in the course of which he was heard to say that Cunliffe was "no gentleman", and that his retirement was enforced ostensibly on health grounds. He was awarded an annual pension of £400 but a worked example on display indicates he was actually due £710.

Marriage and fatherhood

Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899; they had only one child, a boy named Alastair (whose nickname was "Mouse") born blind in one eye and plagued by health problems throughout his short life. On Grahame's retirement, they returned to Cookham where he had lived as a child, and lived at Mayfield, now Herries Preparatory School, where he turned the bedtime stories he told Alastair into his masterpiece. Alastair eventually committed suicide on a railway track while an undergraduate at Oxford University, two days before his 20th birthday on 7 May 1920. Out of respect for Grahame, Alastair's demise was recorded as an accidental death.


Grahame died in Pangbourne, Berkshire, in 1932. He is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford. Grahame's cousin Anthony Hope, also a successful author, wrote his epitaph, which reads: "To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the river on the 6th of July, 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him the more blest for all time."


While still a young man in his 20s, Grahame began to publish light stories in London periodicals such as the St. James Gazette. Some of these stories were collected and published as Pagan Papers in 1893, and, two years later, The Golden Age. These were followed by Dream Days in 1898, which contains The Reluctant Dragon.

There is a ten-year gap between Grahame's penultimate book and the publication of his triumph, The Wind in the Willows. During this decade, Grahame became a father. The wayward, headstrong nature he saw in his little son Alastair he transformed into the swaggering Mr. Toad, one of its four principal characters. The character in the book known as Ratty was inspired by his good friend, and writer, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Grahame mentions this in a signed copy he gave to Quiller-Couch's daughter, Foy Felicia. Despite its success, he never attempted a sequel. The book is still widely enjoyed by adults and children today, also in films, while Toad remains one of the most celebrated and beloved characters. A. A. Milne wrote the play Toad of Toad Hall in 1929, based on part of The Wind in the Willows. The Wind in the Willows won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958. In the 1990s, William Horwood came up with a series of sequels.


  • Pagan Papers (1893)
  • The Golden Age (1895)
  • Dream Days (1898)
  • Including The Reluctant Dragon (1898)
  • The Headswoman (1898)
  • The Wind in the Willows (1908), illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
  • Bertie's Escapade (1949), illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
  • References

    Kenneth Grahame Wikipedia