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famous people from around berkshire -Kenneth Grahame
Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, the third of four children. His father, James Cunningham Grahame, was a lawyer from an old Scottish family, and mother Bessie (Ingles) Grahame, the daughter of of John Ingles of Hilton, Lasswade. In the early years, he lived with his family in the Western Highlands, near Loch Fyne. Grahame's mother died of scarlet fever when he was five. Due to the alcoholism of his father, who resigned his post as Sheriff-Substitute of Argyllshire and died of drink in Le Havre, Grahame was brought up by elderly relatives. He was sent with his sister to live with their maternal grandmother in the village of Cookham Dene, Berkshire. Her house and its large garden by the River Thames provided the background of The Wind in the Willows.
Grahame had a happy childhood in the lovely English countryside. The children were given freedom to do more or less what they wanted. They were able to explore, had adventures, and through their own experiences, they learned about the world.
In 1899 Grahame married Elspeth Thomson and on 12 May 1900 their only child, Alastair (or 'Mouse') was born. Grahame resigned from the Bank in June 1908, having written little since Dream Days (1899), a collection of stories about childhood. His literary reputation was already strong, but it was the publication in October 1908 of The Wind in the Willows that made him world famous - much to the surprise of many literary critics, who disliked the book.
Grahame would never repeat such success again and henceforth only dabbled in literary affairs. He died on the 6 July 1932 and lies buried in Oxford's Holywell Cemetery, where his headstone reads: 'To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the River on 6 July 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him more blest for all time.'
In 1908, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows was published to surprisingly little critical fanfare. But readers championed its cause, and Grahame's novel of a riverbank life soon proved both a commercial-and ultimately critical-success. One hundred years after its first publication, Grahame's book and its memorable characters continue their hold on the public imagination and have taken their place in the canon of children's literature. However, little academic criticism emerged in the wake of the book's initial publication. Only after the appearance of Peter Green's biocritical study did the academy begin to wrestle with Grahame's complex work, though many read it in terms of Grahame's often unhappy personal life.
At 40, Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899, but the marriage was not a happy one. They had one child, Alastair, who was born blind in one eye and plagued by health problems throughout his short life. Alastair eventually committed suicide on a railway track while an undergraduate at Oxford University, two days before his 20th birthday.
The essays in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows: A Children's Classic at 100 focus on recent discussions of the book in regards to class, gender, and nationality but also examine issues previously not addressed by Grahame criticism, such as the construction of heteronormative masculinity, the appeal of this very English novel to Chinese readers, and the meaning of a text in which animals can be human-like, pets, servants, and even food. This volume also revisits some of the issues that have engaged critics from the start, including the book's dual-strand narrative structure, the function of home, and the psychological connections between Toad and Grahame. Scholars of fantasy and children's literature will find great value in this collection that sheds new light on this enduring classic.
Grahame contributed essays and stories to "The Yellow Book" and W. E. Henley's "National Observer", and his collections "Pagan Papers", "The Golden Age" and "Dream Days" were well received by critics such as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ("Q", 1863-1944), who became a close friend. Grahame's stories centred on a fictional family of five children which he had created during his own childhood.