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Reviewed by:
  • The Annotated Wind in the Willows, and: The Wind in the Willows: An Annotated Edition
  • Lucy Rollin (bio)
The Annotated Wind in the Willows. By Kenneth Grahame. Edited with a preface and notes by Annie Gauger. Introduction by Brian Jacques. New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2009.
The Wind in the Willows: An Annotated Edition. By Kenneth Grahame. Edited by Seth Lerer. Cambridge, MA, and London, England: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009.

The publication of two annotated editions of this canonical work in the same year acknowledges both its centenary in 2008 and the perennial fascination it holds for both adult and child readers. Richly annotated and illustrated editions of children's classics began with the phenomenon of Martin Gardner's annotated Alice in Wonderland in 1960, a work of great learning and wit, updated twice since and published in 2000 by Norton as "The Definitive Edition." Norton has specialized in publishing such editions of The Wizard of Oz, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Secret Garden, and others, the majority edited by scholars such as Michael Patrick Hearne, who has annotated no fewer than three of these editions, and Maria Tatar, also with three to her credit. They are wonderful browsing books, visually beautiful, erudite, amusing to readers who already know the stories, and satisfying to those who enjoy knowing lots of facts from substantive to gossipy. Annie Gauger, who is a fellow at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, is thus in fast company; this is apparently her first published work, the result of her college honors thesis. Despite her exhaustive research (among primary sources at the Bodleian, for example) and her knowledge of all things even tangentially Grahame, this annotated edition does not measure up to its fellows at Norton.

Gauger's Wind in the Willows is hefty, lush with illustrations, and beautifully formatted in the tradition of other Norton annotated editions. Her preface tracing Grahame's life and the evolution of Wind in the Willows is thorough and engaging, accompanied by a pleasant selection of photographs, such as a beautiful view of Fowey, the seaside town that inspired several settings in Grahame's book. Gauger has also made some good choices of supplementary material, especially in her essay on seven-year-old Alastair Grahame's little magazine "The Merry Thought," for which the boy drew illustrations and "advertisements" and to which his father contributed several stories. Gauger makes a good case for his nanny's calming influence on Alastair during the frequent absences of his parents, and for Alastair's part [End Page 106] in the creation of Grahame's magnum opus, reproducing in full the seminal letters Grahame wrote to Alastair about Toad. Her essay on the illustrators is especially enlightening. They were a brave few, and seeing their early experiments, we appreciate again the triumph of Ernest Shepard and Arthur Rackham, who, along with the others, are abundantly represented throughout and one of the pleasures of this volume.

In the notes themselves, however, this edition falls short. There are too many of them, for one thing. Grahame's text seems dwarfed by pages of notes. More importantly, many of the notes are completely unnecessary. After the accident with the gypsy caravan, when Rat and Mole have rescued Toad and dispensed with the horse and cart, Gauger notes, "This is the last that we will ever hear of the horse. We have no idea if or how the horse is returned to Toad Hall" (57). At times she paraphrases or restates the obvious, as in a note to the beginning of the chapter on Badger: "Badger is also tentative about opening the door, peeking to see who it is before he gives anyone a chance to enter" (78). In response to Rat's urging Toad to "sit down and have your supper, which will be on the table in a minute," Gauger glosses, "The supper has been probably been prepared by a servant, who remains purposely out of sight" (272).

Gauger occasionally describes an illustration that is right there for us to see. At other times, veering into scholarly mode, she carefully...


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