Sunday, September 03, 2023

Fortnightly Book, September 3

 Kenneth Grahame was a secretary at the Bank of England; he had had literary aspirations but his family had pushed him in the direction of a profession with a more stable salary. He still did some writing in his spare time. Pagan Papers, a slim book of literary sketches, was published in 1894, but he began having real success with his next two works, The Golden Age (a book of retellings of Greek myths, published in 1895) and Dream Days (a book of short stories, published in 1898), which were both lavishly praised by the critics and sold reasonably well. But he is best known, of course, for a work published in 1908, which the critics of the despised. He had originally intended to title it, Mr. Mole and His Mates, but for reasons completely unknown, it was published under a title that was much more memorable: The Wind in the Willows.

The book began as a set of stories that Grahame told his perpetually ailing son, Alastair, around 1904, when the boy was four years old. Sometimes they were bedtime stories, sometimes they were letter-stories he wrote to his son when he was away, but in 1908, shortly after he had left his job at the Bank and retired, he reworked them a bit and had them published. And now it comes to us, as the next fortnightly book.