Author(s): Matthew Dennison
During the week Kenneth Grahame sat behind a mahogany desk as Secretary of the Bank of England; at the weekend he retired to the house in the country he shared with his fanciful wife Elspeth and fragile son Alistair and took lengthy walks along the Thames in Berkshire, 'tempted [by] the treasures of hedge and ditch; the rapt surprise of the first lords-and-ladies, the rustle of a field-mouse, the splash of a frog'.
The result of these pastoral wanderings was The Wind in the Willows: an enduring classic of children's literature; a cautionary tale for adult readers; a warning of the fragility of the English countryside; and an expression of fear at threatened social changes that, in the aftermath of the World War I, became reality. Like its remarkable author, it balances maverick tendencies with conservatism. Graham was an Edwardian pantheist whose work has a timeless appeal, an escapist whose withdrawal from reality took the form of time travel into his own past.