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Among the many people to whom The Wind in the Willows extends its timeless appeal, there should be some who will find the ""tragedy of the life it represents"" moving; others who will find this study meaningful in relation to Grahame's generation since so much of his private conflict was a reflection of the time in which he lived, shared by his literary associates;and still others who will find it a fascinating personal portrait in itself. For the fantasy world of Mole and Toad and Rat was not disembodied but had its firm origins; in the boyhood of Kenneth Grahame who lost his mother at three and was sent away to an austere grandmother. Then he first acquired the habit of solitude and the ""love of the visible natural world"" which would always be stronger than any love of humanity; in the later years of seeming conformity (Grahame clerked in a bank) he was to protest against the changing appearance and attitudes of Victorian England. Always caught in the ugly split between the dream and reality. Grahame married -- at forty- the predatory Elspeth and it was this which, if only negatively, provided the ""creative flash-point"". Unequal to the demands of an adult relationship, he was to find a retreat and release in the imaginary world where he could safeguard his innocence of vision. So that The Wind in the Willows, which was a satire of contemporary society, becomes also a sublimination of his own failure and a projection of the Good Life. In the later years the myth endures and invests the only son of this unhappy marriage, exacts its price at Alastair's death (most probably a suicide) when at last ""the over-drawn account with reality was squared""..... This is a finely written, revealing and rewarding memoir- an interpretation of the man and an integration of the artist with his times. As the only available study of Kenneth Grahame it should find a permanent place over and above the immediate sympathy of the presentation.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1959
Publisher: World