A(lan) A(lexander) Milne (1882-1956)
English writer, the creator of Winner-the-Pooh. Milne wrote many different kinds of books, humorous verses and light comedies as a staff member of Punch, and the detective novel THE RED HOUSE MYSTERY, which was severely criticized by Raymond Chandler. But Milne's most popular works are WINNIE-THE-POOH (1926) and THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER (1928). In spite of his fame as a children's book writer, Milne was not "inordinately fond" of children.
"On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
And I have nothing else to do,
I sometimes wonder if it's true
That who is what and what is who."
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
Alan Alexander Milne was born in London. His father owned a private school at Mortiner Road, the Henley House. Among the teachers were for some time the science fiction writer H.G. Wells. Milne studied mathematics at the Trinity College in Cambridge, and edited the undergraduate magazine Granta. After receiving his B.A. in 1903, he started his career as a freelance writer. Milne's essays and poems were published in the satirical magazine Punch and St. James' Gazette. In 1906 he joined the staff of Punch.
At H.G. Wells's suggestion Milne turned some of his sketches into a novel. His first book, LOVERS IN LONDON, appeared in 1905. His next books were collections of his Punch pieces. In the 1910s he became well known as a playwrigt, notably for MR. PIM PASSES BY (1919). In 1913 Milne married Dorothy de Sêlincourt - "She laughed at my jokes," he wrote later in his autobiography. Their only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. During World War I Milne served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a signals officer. He was posted to France briefly in 1916 and wrote propaganda for the Intelligence service. The horrors he witnessed on the battlefieds left him a lifelong nostalgia for the idyllic fantasies of childhood. When the disillusioned post-war writers depicted the "lost generation" of the 1920s, Milne returned in his Pooh books into the safety of his early years.
After the war written THE DOVER ROAD (1921) continued Milne's success. Most of his plays were nonfantastic, but he also wrote for children. The plays were produced in London and in Broadway and their popularity enabled him to buy in 1925 a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Sussex. Most of the time the family still spent in London, going down to Cotchford only at week-ends. There, in a small and dark room, with a window that looked over the courtyard, Milne wrote his works, smoking his pipe. And after dinner, he ususlly solved crosswords.
In 1922 Milne published a detective story, The Red House Mystery, in the Sherlock Holmes tradition. Its lack of realistic details and cozy atmosphere inspired Raymond Chandler to write: "The detective in the case in an insouciant amateur named Anthony Gillingman, a nice lad with a cheery eye, a cosy little flat in London, and that airy manner... The English police seem to endure him with their customary stoicism; but I shudder to think of what the boys down at the Homicide Bureau in my city would do to him." (from 'The Simple Art of Murder') Milne's other mysteries include FOUR DAY'S WONDER (1933) and the drama THE FOURTH WALL, which was made into a film under the litle The Perfect Alibi.
"A 'children's book' must be written, not for children, but for the author himself."
At the age of 42 Milne published WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG, a collection of poetry for children. Two years later followed Winnie-the-Pooh. These hugely popular stories were set in Ashdown forest. They feature Milne's son Christopher (1920-1996) with various talking animals and animated versions of his toys - among them the famous teddy-bear, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and others. The stories were originally illustrated by E.H. Shepard. The House at Pooh Corner (1928) continued the adventures of Pooh Bear and his friends. Later Pooh became an industry, producing toys, comics, and such films as Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree (1996) from Disney.
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
"It's a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees,
They'd build their nests at the bottom of trees.
And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),
We shouldn't have to climb up all these stairs."
Winnie-the-Pooh has been target for psychological analysis - noteworthy is the absence of Christopher Robin's mother. However, this is not an unique trait of the book. Also Walt Disney left mothers (and fathers) out of the world of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Religious imagery is missing from the book, too. Milne kept his religious beliefs to himself, but recorded in the his thoughts in THE NORMAN CHURCH (1948). His son Christopher received the conventional religious education, but though he was given two Christian names, he was never christened, nor confirmed. Milne left him to develop his own religious beliefs.
Christopher Milne has later confessed that he had problems to cope with the legendary literary figure created after him. Milne has also told that his mother, Daphne, invented stories about toy animals and provided most of the material for his father's books. Christopher Milne analyzed his relationship with his father in Enchanted Places (1975), in which he emphasizes that his father did not feel sentimental about children. His famous poem 'Vespers' - beautifully sung by Vera Lynn - is actually about a little boy who is pretending to say his prayers. "... prayers means nothing to a child of three, whose thoughts are engaged with other, more exciting matters..." Milne wrote in 'Preface to Parents'.
In the 1930's and 40's Milne was active in religious and pacifist polemics. At the age of fifty-six he published his autobiography, IT'S TOO LATE NOW (1938), which focused mostly on his childhood years. For the Pooh books he devoted eight "rather unhappy" pages, as Christopher Milne said it. An operation on Milne's brain in 1952 left him an invalid during the last four years of his life. He died in Hartfield, Sussex, on January 31, 1956. After his wife's death in 1971 part of the fortune earned by the Pooh books came to the Royal Literary Fund, providing for writers in financial distress.