|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.
Selections of newspaper articles and introductions to books by others:
For the Luncheon Interval [poems from Punch]
Milne wrote over 25 plays including: