Years before he wrote The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame published a very different sort of book: Pagan Papers, a wry, witty, wide-ranging collection of eighteen irresistible essays.

Strolling, loafing, smoking, collecting books and pondering, the author muses on the human condition. What to do about relatives who are in the way? What is the proper punishment for a bookbinder who takes too long at his job? Are free libraries an unmixed blessing?

More seriously: Can nothing make it worth our while not to quarrel with our fellows? Which is more desirable: memory or forgetfulness? Are we irrevocably cut off from the natural world, or might there still be a way back to it?


Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) was a British writer, mainly of the sort of fiction and fantasy written for children but enjoyed equally if not more by adults. He is most famous for The Wind in the Willows (1908), one of the classics of children's literature. He also wrote The Reluctant Dragon, which was much later adapted into a Disney movie. While still a young man, Grahame began to publish light stories in London periodicals such as the St. James Gazette. Some of these stories were collected and published as Pagan Papers in 1893, and, two years later, The Golden Age. These were followed by Dream Days in 1898, which contains The Reluctant Dragon. There is a ten-year gap between Grahame's penultimate book and the publication of his triumph, The Wind in the Willows. During this decade Grahame became a father. The wayward headstrong nature he saw in his little son he transformed into the swaggering Toad of Toad Hall, one of its four principal characters. Despite its success, he never attempted a sequel.