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Meet the Real-Life Inspiration Behind “Mr. Toad”



The character of Mr. Toad, in Kenneth Grahame’s novel The Wind in the Willows, is the embodiment of the reckless and inconsiderate upper-class motorist, a stereotype that would have been widely recognized at the time of the book’s publication in 1908. In the story, Mr. Toad is a crazed follower of the latest fads and has become an obsessive motorist after having his horse-drawn vehicle forced off the road by a passing automobile. “What dust clouds shall spring up before me as I speed on my reckless way!” he declares, on his conversion from horse-drawn to motor vehicles. Before long he has crashed seven cars, been in the hospital three times, and paid a fortune in fines for motoring offenses. His friends try to prevent him from pursuing his dangerous hobby by placing him under house arrest, but he escapes, steals a car, and ends up in prison. He then escapes, steals the same car again, and drives it into a river.

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