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Kenneth Grahame

Bio: (1859-1932) Kenneth Grahame was born at 30 Castle Street, Edinburgh, on 8 March 1859. He was the third child of an affluent advocate, and his great-grand-uncle was the poet and curate James Grahame. He was also the cousin of Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins (1863-1933), author (as Anthony Hope) of The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). Grahame's father was appointed Sheriff-Substitute of Argyllshire in 1860, and the family moved to Inverary. Grahame's mother died of scarlet fever in 1864, and his father, a heavy drinker, was incapable of caring for the children, so they were sent to Cookham Dene in Berkshire to be brought up by their grandmother. Grahame was educated at St Edward's School, Oxford (1868-75), but was unable to enter Oxford University. Instead, after a period working for his uncle in London, he joined the Bank of England as a gentleman-clerk in 1879, rising to become Secretary to the Bank in 1898.

Grahame contributed essays and stories to The Yellow Book and W. E. Henley's National Observer, and his collections Pagan Papers, The Golden Age and Dream Days were well received by critics such as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ("Q", 1863-1944), who became a close friend. Grahame's stories centred on a fictional family of five children which he had created during his own childhood.

Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899, and their only child, Alastair, was born the following year (he was killed in 1918). Grahame created the character of Toad to amuse his son, but it was not until 1908 that he published The Wind in the Willows, which had its origins in letters he had written to Alastair. By then he had already retired from the Bank (in 1907) due to ill health. The book was not an immediate success, but would achieve wider popularity thanks to the 1930 stage version, Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne (1882-1956), whose Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) was created for his own son Christopher Robin.

In 1916 Grahame edited The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, but he published no more work of his own. After Alastair's death, Grahame and his wife spent long periods in Italy. He died peacefully at his home in Pangbourne on 6 July 1932.

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1 The Golden Age [Secure eReader]
by Kenneth Grahame
  The adventures of five brothers and sisters growing up in rural England in the late nineteenth century.
Category: Classic Literature

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