Kenneth Grahame is best known internationally as a writer of children's books and is accredited with deeply influencing fantasy literature. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859, he was the third child of an affluent lawyer. His great grand-uncle was the poet and curate James Grahame, and he was also the cousin of Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, who wrote The Prisoner of Zenda under the pen name "Anthony Hope."
During his early years, Grahame lived with his family in the Western Highlands. His father was an alcoholic, so when his mother died of scarlet fever, the children were sent to live with their maternal grandmother in the village of Cookham Dene. He later used this village as the chief setting for The Wind in the Willows. Grahame was educated at St. Edward's School, Oxford, but was unable to enter Oxford University. Instead, after a period of working for his uncle in London, he joined the Bank of England as a gentleman-clerk in 1879 and later rose to become secretary to the bank.
While pursuing his career at the bank, Grahame began composing light nonfiction pieces as a pastime. Throughout the 1890s, his articles and short stories were published in such journals as the St. James Gazette, the National Observer, and the Yellow Book. Many of these short stories, featuring children, were were published together in three well-received collections: Pagan Papers, The Golden Age, and Dream Days.
Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899, and a year later their son, Alistair, was born. Grahame wrote parts of The Wind in the Willows originally in a letterform to entertain his young son. After an American publisher rejected his manuscript, The Wind in the Willows was published in England in 1908. The book did not receive instant acclamation; however, its reputation grew, and it became a children's classic.
Grahame experienced poor health and retired from the Bank of England in 1907, but he did continue to write. Tragically, his son committed suicide while he was an undergraduate at Oxford, two days before his twentieth birthday. Hereafter, Grahame and his wife spent long periods in Italy, and he did not write any other significant pieces. Grahame died peacefully at his home in Pangbourne, Berkshire, on July 6, 1932.