illustrated portraits of Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger set against a woodland scene

The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

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Critical Overview

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Grahame at first had trouble placing The Wind in the Willows with a publisher. His English editor, John Lane, rejected the manuscript, as did Everybody’s, the American periodical that initially solicited it. It was finally picked up in 1908 by Methuen in England. Methuen was still skeptical; so much so that he would not pay an advance on it, though Curtis Brow, Grahame’s literary agent, was able to get him to agree to rising royalties. In 1909, Scribner published the book in America, but only after receiving a letter from President Theodore Roosevelt in its praise.

Critics did not receive Grahame’s new work favorably. After publishing The Golden Age in 1895 and its sequel, Dream Days, in 1898, both to wide acclaim, his readers were in anticipation of another book involving the Gold Age children. As Peter Hunt puts it in The Wind in the Willows: A Fragmented Arcadia: “Kenneth Grahame had been a famous and much-admired writer about children, and here, it seemed, was a book for children. . . .” It was flouted as an “animal fable,” as Lois Kuznets points out in Kenneth Grahame. As Grahame’s audience adapted and began to appreciate the novel for what it was, its success slowly came to fruition. By 1959, Peter Green reports, in his well-known biography of Grahame, that “The Wind in the Willows has achieved over a hundred editions, and an average sale of about 80,000 copies.” Its success has continued to grow since. It is now, without a doubt, considered a classic of children’s literature.

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The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame