|Born:||January 18 1882
Hampstead, London, England
|Died:||January 31 1956 (aged 74)
Hartfield, Sussex, England
|Occupation(s):||Novelist, Playwright, Poet|
Alan Alexander Milne (January 18, 1882 – January 31, 1956), also known as A. A. Milne, was a prolific English author of books, plays, and poems. He is best known for his books about the teddy bear, Winnie the Pooh and for various children's poems. Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work. The children's books by Milne withstand the test of time. They continue to be best sellers and favorites of children of all ages.
Milne's generosity lives beyond him. Royalties from the Pooh characters help to fund an artist-in-residence program for professional authors to be placed at universities in United Kingdom. The program is operated by one of Milne's favorite charities, the Royal Literary Fund.
Milne was born to John Vine Milne and Sarah Maria Heginbotham in Hampstead, London, England. He was the youngest of three boys. Young Alan grew up at Henley House School, 6/7 Mortimer Road, Kilburn, London, a small independent school run by his father. One of his teachers at the school was H.G. Wells.
While growing up, Alan was closer to his father than his mother. His closest family relationship was with his brother Ken. Alan and Ken remained best friends until Ken died of tuberculosis in 1929. In contrast, Alan and his brother Barry were not close. In adulthood, Alan became increasingly alienated from Barry. In spite of the distance between Alan and Barry, Alan was a very kind and supportive friend to Barry's wife, Connie.
Milne attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied on a mathematics scholarship. Milne's motivation to attend Cambridge was his desire to work on the humorist publication, The Granta. While at Cambridge, he edited and wrote for The Granta, a student magazine. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth on articles, which appeared under the initials, AKM. Eventually, Alan wrote solo and also fulfilled his goal of becoming editor of The Granta. During Alan's years at The Granta, readership increased significantly. His greatest pleasure and satisfaction came through honing his skill at crafting light verse. In 1903, Milne graduated from Cambridge with a degree in mathematics.
Milne's work at The Granta had come to the attention of the leading British humor magazine Punch, where Milne was to become a contributor and later an assistant editor. Immediately following college graduation, Milne moved to London to write, living on a modest stipend from his father. After sixteen months, the money was nearly gone but he was beginning to earn a meager amount from articles submitted to newspapers and publications like Punch. St. James Gazette was initially his largest income source. In fact, H.G. Wells suggested that a series of articles Milne had written for the Gazette could be the basis for a book. This series became the beginnings of his first book, Lovers in London, published in 1905. Later in 1905, Milne's work was appearing more regularly in Punch. His income was becoming more steady. As the end of the year closed in, Milne planned to pull back from article writing to focus on a new book. Instead, Punch editor, Owen Seaman convinced him to become full time assistant editor of the magazine.
Milne married Dorothy "Daphne" de Selincourt, goddaughter of Owen Seaman, in 1913.
Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers Regiment. Later, after a debilitating illness, he served with the Royal Corps of Signals. After the war, Milne wrote a denunciation of war titled, Peace with Honor (1934), which he retracted somewhat with 1940's War with Honor.
Daphne and Alan's only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. In 1925, A. A. Milne bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex. Milne's son, whom he called "Billy Moon" became his muse for many of the children's verses he composed, as well as the Winnie the Pooh books. The woods surrounding Cotchford Farm were the model for 1000 Acre Woods described as Winnie the Pooh and friends' home in the well known stories.
Alan was a generous man. He was a frequent contributor to the Royal Literary Fund, the Children's Country Holiday Fund, and the Society of Authors Fund. He also took great care to save enough money to support both his and Ken's family fully over time.
In 1940, when tensions were building strongly in Europe regarding Hitler, the Milnes moved permanently to Cotchford Farm. Away from the hubbub of the city, Alan and Daphne became the closest they had ever been. Christopher was already a young man.
During World War II, Milne was Captain of the British Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row, insisting on being plain "Mr. Milne" to the members of his platoon. Milne continued to write during the war. He became one of the most prominent critics of English comic writer P.G. Wodehouse, who was captured at his country home in France by the Nazis and imprisoned for a year. Wodehouse made radio broadcasts about his internment, which were broadcast from Berlin. Although the lighthearted broadcasts made fun of the Germans, Milne accused Wodehouse of committing an act of near treason by cooperating with his country's enemy. (Wodehouse got some revenge by creating fatuous parodies of the Christopher Robin poems in some of his later stories.)
Milne retired to Cotchford Farm in 1952, after a stroke and brain surgery left him an invalid. Although he was only expected to live another six weeks, he survived for more than three years. Sadly, Christopher, who had grown distant from his parents, only visited very occasionally. Milne died quietly on January 31, 1956. A memorial service was held for him on February 10, 1956, at All Hallows-by-the-Tower in London. This service was the last time Christopher saw his mother, though she lived another fifteen years.
Milne is most famous for his Pooh books about a boy named Christopher Robin, after his son, and various characters inspired by his son's stuffed animals, most notably the bear named Winnie the Pooh. The source of the name is reputedly a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), that was used as a military mascot by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, a Canadian Infantry Regiment in World War I, and left to the London Zoo after the war. After its heroics On September 14, 1915, the bear was named Winnie the Pooh, years before Milne adopted it. E. H. Shepard illustrated the original Pooh books, using his own son's teddy, Growler ("a magnificent bear"), as the model. Christopher Robin Milne's own toys are now under glass in New York.
Milne also wrote a number of poems, including "Vespers," "They're Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace," and "King John's Christmas," which were published in the books, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. Several of Milnes's children's poems were set to music by the composer Harold Fraser-Simson. His poems have been parodied many times, including with the books When We Were Rather Older and Now We Are Sixty.
The overwhelming success of his children's books was to become a source of considerable annoyance to Milne, whose self-avowed aim was to write whatever he pleased, and who had, until then, found a ready audience for each change of direction. He had freed pre-war Punch from its ponderous facetiousness. He had made a considerable reputation as a playwright (like his idol J. M. Barrie) on both sides of the Atlantic. He had produced a witty piece of detective writing in The Red House Mystery (although this was severely criticized by Raymond Chandler for the implausibility of its plot). Indeed, Milne's publisher was displeased when Milne announced his intention to write poems for children. Milne had never lacked an audience.
But once Milne had, in his own words, "said Goodbye to all that in 70,000 words" (the approximate length of the four children's books), he had no intention of producing a copy of a copy, given that one of the sources of inspiration, his son, was growing older.
Milne's reception remained warmer in America than Britain. He continued to publish novels and short stories, but by the late 1930s, the audience for Milne's grown-up writing had largely vanished. Milne observed bitterly in his autobiography that a critic had said that the hero of his latest play (God Help It) was simply "Christopher Robin grown up … what an obsession with me children are become!"
Even his old literary home, Punch, where the When We Were Very Young verses had first appeared, was ultimately to reject him, as Christopher Milne details in his autobiography, The Enchanted Places. Although Methuen continued to publish whatever Milne wrote, including the long poem, The Norman Church and an assembly of articles entitled Year In, Year Out (which Milne likened to a benefit night for the author).
Milne also adapted Kenneth Grahame's novel The Wind in the Willows for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall. The title was an implicit admission that some of the book, such as Chapter 7, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, could not survive translation to the theater. A special introduction written by Milne is included in some editions of Grahame's novel.
After Milne's death, his widow sold the rights to the Pooh characters to the Walt Disney Company in 1961. Disney has made a number of popular Pooh cartoon movies, as well as a large amount of Pooh-related merchandise. Unfortunately, Daphne destroyed her husband's papers. But the Winnie the Pooh books, as well as the books of children's verse, "When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six," continue to be best sellers. These light hearted books are perennial favorites for bedtime reading. The whimsical characters and wonderful rhyme tickle the fancy and the funny bone of children of all ages. Milne's play, Toad of Toad Hall is a Christmas favorite.
Eventually Christopher Robin Milne reconciled with his father's career and literary contribution. He became an author in his own right; penning The Enchanted Places and The Path Through the Trees.
Royalties from the Pooh characters paid by Disney to the Royal Literary Fund, part-owner of the Pooh copyright, provide the income used to run the Fund's Fellowship Scheme, placing professional writers in UK universities.
Selections of newspaper articles and introductions to books by others:
For the Luncheon Interval [poems from Punch]
Milne wrote over 25 plays including:
All links retrieved October 12, 2019.
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