Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Wind in the Willows Brunch

Our next Saturday morning brunch will be at our home on Saturday, November 14th at 10:00AM with an intriguing, heartwarming, and much beloved book as the focus of the morning.  That book began as tales told by a father to his young son but ended up winning the praises of such notables as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, and President Teddy Roosevelt. Indeed, Roosevelt not only persuaded Scribners to publish the book but he considered the characters in the book to have become his “dear friends.” The book?  Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows.  

You say you haven’t read it lately? Maybe even since the days of childhood? Well, I would urge you to discover afresh the joys, the beauty, and the profound life lessons of The Wind in the Willows. And to whet your appetite, here are a couple of interesting responses to Graham’s classic. The first is from A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh books.

Milne once said of The Wind in the Willows: “I shall not describe the book, for no description would help it.  But I shall just say this; that it is what I call a Household Book.  By a Household Book I mean a book which everybody in the household loves and quotes continually ever afterwards; a book which is read aloud to every new guest, and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth.  But it is a book which makes you feel that, though everybody in the house loves it, it is only you who really appreciate it in its true value, and that the others are scarcely worthy of it.  It is obvious, you persuade yourself, that the author was thinking of you when he wrote it.  ‘I hope this will please Jones,’ were his final words, as he laid down his pen.”

Here’s another sparkling observation from Milne: “One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, he asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know, But it is you who are on trial.”

C.S. Lewis also chimed in on The Wind in the Willows. “It might be expected that such a book would unfit us for the harshness of reality and send us back to our daily lives unsettled and discontented. I do not find that it does so. The happiness which it presents to us is, in fact, full of the simplest and most attainable things -- food, sleep, exercise, friendship, the face of nature, even (in a sense) religion. That ‘simple but sustaining meal’ of ‘bacon and broad beans and a macaroni pudding’ which Rat gave to his friends has, I doubt not, helped down many a real nursery dinner. And in the same way the whole story, paradoxically enough, strengthens our relish for real life. This excursion into the preposterous sends us back with renewed pleasure to the actual.” 

Elsewhere Lewis wrote, “I never met The Wind in the Willows or the Bastable books till I was in my late twenties, and I do not think I have enjoyed them any the less on that account. I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.” 

And finally, here’s one more. G.K. Chesterton scholar James Woodruff once named The Wind in the Willows as the most Chestertonian thing ever written by anyone other than Chesterton. He claimed this was because it is “a celebration of the primal things Chesterton loved -- Home and Friendship and Adventure -- all suffused with a sense of wonder and lived out by characters who write poetry and go forth to battle and both eat and drink with right good will.”

We are really looking forward to The Wind in the Willows Brunch on Saturday morning of November 14 (10 o’clock at the Hartford Cafe) and we hope you too will plan on being a part of this fun, festive, and stimulating morning.