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The Real Kenneth Grahame (Hardback)

The Tragedy Behind The Wind in the Willows

British History Social History Biographies White Owl

By Elisabeth Galvin
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526748805
Published: 30th November 2021

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He wrote one of the most quintessentially English books, yet Kenneth Grahame (1859 – 1932) was a Scot. He was four years old when his mother died and his father became an alcoholic, so Kenneth grew up with his grandmother who lived on the banks of the beloved River Thames. Forced to abandon his dreams of studying at Oxford, he was accepted as a clerk at the Bank of England where he became one of the youngest men to be made company secretary. He narrowly escaped death in 1903 when he was mistaken for the Bank’s governor and shot at several times. He wrote secretly in his spare time for magazines and became a contemporary of contributors including Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw and WB Yeats. Kenneth’s first book, Pagan Papers (1893) initiated his success, followed by The Golden Age (1895) and Dream Days (1898), which turned him into a celebrated author. Ironically, his most famous novel today was the least successful during his lifetime: The Wind in the Willows (1908) originated as letters to his disabled son, who was later found dead on a train line after a suspected suicide. Kenneth never recovered from the tragedy and died with a broken heart in earshot of the River Thames. His widow, Elspeth, dedicated the rest of her life to preserving her husband’s name and promoting his work.

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About Elisabeth Galvin

At every opportunity when she was a child, ELISABETH GALVIN would jump on her mother’s lap to ask for a story. One of these books was The Railway Children, which began her lifelong love of literature. After studying English and Classics at Durham University, she became a magazine journalist in London, Australia and Hong Kong.

A keen open-water swimmer, Elisabeth recited passages by Jane Austen and the Brontës to herself as she swam across the English Channel to France in 2002 (it took her 10 hours 51 minutes so that’s quite a lot of romantic literature).

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