Whilst holidaying with his wife in May of 1907, Kenneth Grahame wrote the first of fifteen letters to his son and ended it with mention of Toad, a fantastical character recently introduced to seven-year-old Alistair‘s bedtime stories, in part to better teach him right from wrong. His son was delighted and, over the coming weeks, his father’s regular letters became entirely devoted to these stories. Within 18 months, following advice from his wife to further develop the tales, the general public were also introduced to Toad and friends by way of Grahame’s now-classic book, The Wind in the Willows.
Transcript follows. Images courtesy of the Bodleian Library.
GREEN BANK HOTEL
10th May 1907.
My darling Mouse
This is a birth-day letter, to wish you very many happy returns of the day. I wish we could have been all together, but we shall meet again soon, & then we will have treats. I have sent you two picture-books, one about Brer Rabbit, from Daddy, & one about some other animals, from Mummy. And we have sent you a boat, painted red, with mast & sails, to sail in the round pond by the windmill — & Mummy has sent you a boat-hook to catch it when it comes to shore. Also Mummy has sent you some sand-toys to play in the sand with, and a card-game.
Have you heard about the Toad? He was never taken prisoner by brigands at all. It was all a horrid low trick of his. He wrote that letter himself — the letter saying that a hundred pounds must be put in the hollow tree. And he got out of the window early one morning, & went off to a town called Buggleton & went to the Red Lion Hotel & there he found a party that had just motored down from London, & while they were having breakfast he went into the stable-yard & found their motor-car & went off in it without even saying Poop-poop! And now he has vanished & every one is looking for him, including the police. I fear he is a bad low animal.
Your loving Daddy.