Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) was born in Edinburgh, as the son of a lawyer from an old Scottish family.
Due to the alcoholism of his father, Grahame was brought up by elderly relatives. In the early years he lived with his family
in the Western highlands. When his mother died of scarlet fever, the children were sent to live with their maternal grandmother
in the village of Cookham Dene, Berkshire. Her house, set in a large garden by the River Thames, provided the background of
The Wind in the Willows. Grahame was educated at St. Edward's School, Oxford. His plans to go to Oxford University
were thwarted by his uncle, who was acting his guardian, and in 1879 he entered the Bank Of England. While pursuing his career
at the bank, Grahame began composing light nonfiction pieces as a pastime He contributed articles to such journals as the
St. James Gazette, W.E. Henley's National Observer and The Yellow Book. Grahame's stories about a group
of orphaned children were published in PAGAN PAPERS (1893). In 1895 appeared THE GOLDEN AGE, a collection of sketches from
his published works. It was followed by DREAM DAYS in 1898, which included Grahame's most famous short story, 'The Reluctant
Dragon'. All the Dragon, a happy Bohemian, wants is to be left alone, but the villagers want it dead. Thanks to a wise young
boy, the Dragon manages to keep its life. St. George, supposed to be thirsting for its blood, doesn't want to hurt it. The
Saint and the Dragon give a good performance, "a jolly fight", and the Dragon collapses as they had agreed beforehand. After
refreshment St. George makes a speech and warns "them against the sin of romancing, and making up stories and fancying other
people would believe them just because they were plausible and highly-coloured."
Grahame was appointed as the secretary at the Bank and in 1899 he married Elspeth Thomson, whose snobbish attitudes Grahame
did not share. Living in a disastrous marriage, Grahame wrote parts of The Wind in the Willows originally in a letter
form to his young son Alistair. He was born blind in one eye and with severe squint in the other. Grahame did not intend to
to publish the stories; they were partly educational for his son, whose excesses of behavior had similarities with Toad. After
his manuscript was rejected by an American publisher, the book appeared in 1908 in England. First it was received with mild
enthusiasm, but E.H. Shephard's illustration and Grahame's animal characterizations started soon gain fame. In 1929 A.A. Milne
dramatized it 1929 by as Toad of Toad Hall. Milne focused on the animals, cutting out most of Grahame's romantic fantasy.
The Wind in the Willows reflected the author's unhappiness in the real world - his riverbank woods and fields
were ''clean of the clash of sex,'' as he said to Theodore Roosevelt. The main tale tells about Toad's obsession with motorcars. "'Glorious, stirring sight!' murmured Toad, never offering to move. 'The poetry of motion! The REAL way
to travel! The ONLY way to travel! Here to-day--in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped--always
somebody else's horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!'" Toad's motoring leads him into imprisonment. Meanwhile Toad Hall
is invaded by stoats and weasels. Toad escapes dressed as a washerwoman. He sells a horse to a gypsy and returns into the
Wild Wood. With the help of his companions Toad recaptures his ancestral home.
After the publication of the book, Grahame retired from his work because of health reasons or under pressure from his
employees. He spent the rest of his life with his wife in idleness. Alistair committed suicide while an undergraduate at Oxford
two days before his 20th birthday - he was killed by a train. Grahame stopped writing after WW I. He died in Pangbourne, Berkshire,
on July 6, 1932.