The Early Social History of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows

Higinbotham, Kathryn, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Vander Meulen, David, AS-English (ENGL), University of Virginia

Nearly a century’s worth of biographies about Kenneth Grahame have continuously circulated a very particular narrative about the publication and early reception of his most enduring work, The Wind in the Willows. These biographies tell an underdog story about publishers and reviewers who, when encountering a book that represented a definite stylistic and generic split from Grahame’s earlier work, struggled to look past their own dashed expectations and see the future classic Willows would become. Yet this narrative is based largely on flawed and unreliable secondary sources. From a bibliographical perspective, assisted by archival research, and with an eye to the previously-neglected American side of the story, “The Early Social History of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows” not only corrects the inaccuracies of the long-standing publication narrative, but also affirms the value of studying Willows’s history for its wide-reaching social implications, from international publication processes to early twentieth century literary controversies.

MA (Master of Arts)
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, bibliography, children's literature, publishing, reception, C Scribner's Sons, Theodore Roosevelt
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