A. A. Milne
Born: January 18, 1882
Died: January 31, 1956
Occupation(s): Novelist, Playwright, Poet
Alan Alexander Milne (January 18, 1882 – January 31, 1956), also known as A. A. Milne, was a British author, 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.
Milne was born in Scotland but raised in London at Henley House School, a small independent school run by his father, John V. Milne. One of his teachers was H. G. Wells. He attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied on a mathematics scholarship. While there, he edited and wrote for Granta, a student magazine. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth and their articles appeared over the initials AKM. Milne's work came to the attention of the leading British humour magazine Punch, where Milne was to become a contributor and later an assistant editor.
Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Signal Corps. After the war, he wrote a denunciation of war titled Peace with Honour (1934), which he retracted somewhat with 1940's War with Honour. During World War II, Milne was 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.
During World War II, he was Captain of the Homeguard in Hartfield & Forrest Row, insisting on being plain 'Mr Milne' to the members of his platoon.
Also during World War II, his home was destroyed in an air raid.
Milne married Dorothy De Selincourt in 1913, and their only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. In 1925, A. A. Milne bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex. He retired to the farm after a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 left him an invalid.
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. Reputedly, a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), used as a military mascot by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, a Canadian Infantry Regiment in World War I and left to London Zoo after the war, is the source of the name. 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 childrens' 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 durable, character-led and witty piece of detective writing in The Red House Mystery -- indeed, his publisher was displeased when he announced his intention to write poems for children -- and he 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.
His reception remained warmer in America than Britain, and he continued to publish novels and short stories, but by the late 1930s the audience for Milne's grown-up writing had largely vanished: he 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).
He 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 such chapters as 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, the rights to the Pooh characters were sold by his widow, Daphne, to the Walt Disney Company, which has made a number of Pooh cartoon movies, as well as a large amount of Pooh-related merchandise. She also destroyed his papers.
Milne's friend Frank Swinnerton's book The Georgian Literary Scene contains a substantial section about him; his son has written several books of autobiography: The Enchanted Places, in particular, is an account of his attempt to escape from the shadow of a famous father and a burdensome name; The Path Through the Trees continues the story into adult life. Ann Thwaite's AA Milne: His Life is an excellent and detailed biography, although it gives little space to the plays; a spin-off book tells the story for a younger readership, concentrating on Pooh.
- Lovers in London, (1905) (Some consider this more of a short story collection; Milne didn't like it and considered The Day's Play as his first book)
- Once on a Time, (1917) [a fairytale with an adult slant]
- Mr. Pim, (1921)
- The Red House Mystery, (1921)
- Two People, (1931) (Inside jacket claims this is Milne's first attempt at a novel.)
- Four Days' Wonder, (1933)
- Chloe Marr, (1946)
- When I Was Very Young, (1930) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
- Peace With Honour, (1934)
- It's Too Late Now: the autobiography of a writer, (1939)
- War With Honour, (1940)
- Year In, Year Out, (1952) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
- The Day's Play, (1910)
- Once a Week, (1914)
- The Holiday Round, (1912)
- The Sunny Side, (1921)
- Those Were the Days, (1929) [selection of Punch pieces from the above four books]
Selections of newspaper articles and introductions to books by others:
- Not That It Matters, (1920)
- By Way of Introduction, (1929)
Story Collections for Children
- Gallery of Children, (1925)
- Winnie-the-Pooh, (1926) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
- The House at Pooh Corner, (1928) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
- Short Stories
- A Table by the Band
For the Luncheon Interval [poems from Punch]
- When We Were Very Young, (1924) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
- Now We Are Six, (1927) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
- Behind the Lines, (1940)
- The Norman Church, (1948)
Milne wrote over 25 plays including:
- Wurzel-Flummery, (1917)
- Belinda, (1918)
- The Boy Comes Home, (1918)
- Make-Believe, (1918) [a play for children]
- The Camberley Triangle, (1919)
- Mr. Pim Passes By, (1919)
- The Red Feathers, (1920)
- The Romantic Age, (1920)
- The Stepmother, (1920)
- The Truth about Blayds, (1920)
- The Dover Road, (1921)
- The Lucky One, (1922)
- The Artist: a duologue, (1923)
- Give Me Yesterday, (1923) [aka Success in the UK]
- The Great Broxopp, (1923)
- Ariadne, (1924)
- The Man in the Bowler Hat: a terribly exciting affair", (1924)
- To Have the Honour, (1924)
- Portrait of a Gentleman in Slippers, (1926)
- Success, (1926)
- Miss Marlow at Play, (1927)
- The Fourth Wall or The Perfect Alibi, (1928)
- The Ivory Door, (1929)
- Toad of Toad Hall, (1929) (Adaptation of The Wind in the Willows)
- Michael and Mary, (1930)
- Other People's Lives, (1933) [aka They Don't Mean Any Harm]
- Miss Elizabeth Bennett (based on Pride and Prejudice?, )
- Sarah Simple, (1937)
- Gentleman Unknown, (1938)
- The General Takes Off His Helmet (1939) in The Queen's Book of the Red Cross
- The Ugly Duckling (1946)
- Before the Flood, (1951)
Books on Pooh and Milne
- Crews, Frederick, The Pooh Perplex, Chicago & London, University of Chicago Press, 2003 (1st ed. 1963) ISBN 0-226-12058-9
- Crews, Frederick, Postmodern Pooh, New York, North Point Press, 2001 ISBN 0-86547-654-3
- Hoff, Benjamin, The Tao of Pooh, New York, Penguin, 1983 ISBN 0-14-006747-7
- Hoff, Benjamin, The Te of Piglet, New York, Dutton Adult, 1992 ISBN 0-525-93496-0
- Milne, Christopher Robin and A. R. Melrose (ed.), Beyond the World of Pooh: Selections from the Memoirs of Christopher Milne, New York, Dutton, 1998 ISBN 0-525-45888-3
- Thwaite, Ann, A. A. Milne: His Life, New York, Random House, 1990 ISBN 0-394-58724-3
- Tyerman Williams, John, Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winnie-The-Pooh, London, Methuen, 1995 ISBN 0-525-45520-5
- Wullschlager, Jackie, Inventing Wonderland: The Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A. A. Milne, New York & Detroit, The Free Press, 1996 ISBN 0-684-82286-5
- The Fourth Wall was made into a film called The Perfect Alibi
- Michael and Mary was filmed in 1932
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