June 8, 2010

Alastair Grahame

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing,
absolutely nothing,
half so much worth doing as simply
messing about in boats."

Kenneth Grahame, son of James Cunningham Grahame and Elizabeth Johnstone Inglis, was born 8 Mar 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father was a lawyer from an old Scottish family and mother the daughter of John Ingles of Hilton, Lasswade. The family lived in the Western Highlands, near Loche Fyne.

Grahame's mother died of scarlet fever when he was five years of age. Due to his father's alcoholism, Grahame and his younger sister Helen went to live with his grandmother in the Berkshire village of Cookham Dene in southern England. Her house and its large garden by the River Thames provided the background for The Wind in the Willows.

While a young man, Grahame began to publish light stories in London periodicals such as the St. James Gazette. Some of those stories were collected and published as Pagan Papers (1893) and, two years later, The Golden Age which was said to be the favorite bedtime reading of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Its sequel, Dream Days (1898), contains Grahame's most famous short story, The Reluctant Dragon.

Grahame married Elspeth Thomson (a 36-year-old spinster), Jul 1899 in Fowey, Scotland. She was born abt. 1881 in Edinburgh, Scotland. They had one son, Alistair Grahame (nicknamed “Mouse”), who was born blind in one eye.

In the spring of 1907 Grahame sent his seven-year old son, the first of a series of letters telling the story of a group of animals and their various adventures along the river, in the woods and on the road. These letters, centering on the swaggering Mr. Toad, formed the first whisperings of what would become one of the best-loved children's stories of all time, The Wind in the Willows (1908). Despite its success, he never attempted a sequel.

Due to ill health, Grahame retired from his position as Secretary at the Bank of England in 1908. He died 6 Jul 1932 at Church Cottage in Pangbourne, England and was buried at Holywell Cemetery in Oxford. His cousin Anthony Hope, also a successful author, wrote his epitaph: "To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the river on the 6th of July, 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him the more blest for all time."

Alastair Grahame was born 18 May 1900 in WHERE. He died 7 May 1920 while a student at Oxford. The headstrong nature of young Alistair was transformed into the swaggering Mr. Toad, one of the four principal characters in The Wind in the Willows.

But Alastair’s real life story is a sad one. His parents were not happily married and neither of them was especially cut out for the role of parent. As a result, he spent much time away from them, in the care of a nanny, then a governess and then at Oxford where he often had trouble. While an undergraduate, two days before his 20th birthday, Alastair committed suicide by laying on train tracks. Out of respect for his father, Alastair’s death was recorded as accidental.

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