23 February 2007
In the spring of 1907 Kenneth Grahame sent his seven-year old son, Alastair (nicknamed 'Mouse'), 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.
To mark Keneth Grahame’s centenary, the Bodleian Library has launched an online exhibition featuring the final manuscript itself and the 15 original letters sent by the author to Alastair, alongside two of the most famous illustrated editions and other compelling items.
Talking about the exhibition, Chris Fletcher, Head of Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The Bodleian Library benefitted tremendously from the great generosity of Kenneth Grahame and his wife, through bequests and gifts – including the letters and manuscripts on display. We are therefore particularly delighted to be able to share with the wider public, in our display and accompanying online exhibition, the story of how one of the greatest children's stories of all time came into being.’
Kenneth Grahame bequeathed all the royalties in his works to ‘the University of Oxford for the benefit of the Bodleian Library’, an act of generosity that has enabled it to acquire many books and manuscripts for its readers and the wider public to enjoy, not least in the field of literature for children.
You can visit the online exhibition here.
Picture: Alastair, Kenneth Grahame's son