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A.A. Milne

A.A. Milne A.A. Milne[1†]

Alan Alexander Milne (18 January 1882 – 31 January 1956) was an English writer, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various children’s poems[1†]. Milne was primarily a playwright, and the success of his books about Winnie-the-Pooh overshadowed much of his previous work[1†]. He was born in Kilburn, London, to John Vine Milne and Sarah Marie Milne (née Heginbotham)[1†]. His father ran a private school, where one of the boy’s teachers was a young H.G. Wells[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Alan Alexander Milne was born on January 18, 1882, in Kilburn, London[1†][3†][4†]. He was the youngest of three sons born to John Vine Milne and Sarah Marie Milne (née Heginbotham)[1†][3†][5†]. His father ran a small independent school named Henley House[1†][5†], where one of his teachers was the renowned writer H.G. Wells[1†][4†].

Milne was a good student and showed a particular interest in mathematics and writing[1†][4†]. In 1893, he won a scholarship to Westminster School in London[1†][3†][4†], where he studied for seven years[1†][3†]. After finishing school, Milne attended Trinity College, Cambridge[1†][5†][4†], where he studied on a mathematics scholarship[1†]. He graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1903[1†].

During his time at Cambridge, Milne began to show a talent for writing. He edited and wrote for Granta, a student magazine[1†]. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth, and their articles appeared under the initials AKM[1†]. Milne’s work caught the attention of the leading British humour magazine Punch, where Milne would later become a contributor and an assistant editor[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

After graduating from Cambridge, Milne moved to London to make a living as a freelance writer[2†]. In 1906, he joined the staff of Punch, a leading British humor magazine, where he worked for eight years (1906–1914), writing humorous verse and whimsical essays[2†][6†].

Despite being a pacifist, Milne joined the British Army in World War I as a signaling officer[2†][1†][2†]. He served briefly in France but became ill and was sent home[2†][1†]. He was discharged in 1919[2†].

When he was not rehired by Punch after the war, Milne turned his attention to playwriting[2†]. He achieved considerable success with a series of light comedies, including “Mr. Pim Passes By” (1921) and “Michael and Mary” (1930)[2†]. Milne also wrote one memorable detective novel, “The Red House Mystery” (1922), and a children’s play, “Make-Believe” (1918), before stumbling upon his true literary métier with some verses written for his son, Christopher Robin[2†].

These verses grew into the collections “When We Were Very Young” (1924) and “Now We Are Six” (1927)[2†]. Despite Milne’s success as a playwright, only these verses and his two sets of stories about the adventures of Christopher Robin and his toy animals—Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Owl, and Eeyore —as told in “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926) and “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928) endured into the 21st century[2†]. Illustrations by Ernest Shepard added to their considerable charm[2†].

In 1929, Milne adapted another children’s classic, “The Wind in the Willows,” by Kenneth Grahame, for the stage as "Toad of Toad Hall"[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Alan Alexander Milne began his writing career with a one-act farce titled “Wurzel-Flummer,” which he wrote during his military service[7†]. He gained success as a playwright with early works such as “The Dover Road” (1921) and “Mr. Pim Passes By” (1921)[7†]. However, Milne’s most notable works are undoubtedly his children’s books, particularly those featuring the beloved character Winnie-the-Pooh[7†][1†].

Here are some of his main works along with their first year of publication:

These works, particularly the Winnie-the-Pooh series, have had a significant impact on children’s literature. The character of Winnie-the-Pooh was inspired by a teddy bear owned by Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who is also featured as a character in the stories[7†][1†]. The original manuscripts of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories were bequeathed to the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge[7†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

A.A. Milne’s work is renowned for its playful and whimsical nature, making him a beloved figure in children’s literature[10†]. His stories and poems often explore themes such as childhood, nostalgia, and the natural world[10†]. An important theme in Milne’s stories and poems is the relationship between adults and children[10†][11†]. Adults in Milne’s books often fail to understand children, asking tiresome questions about their wellness, which children must take pains to answer[10†][11†].

Milne’s work became iconic for its exploration of these themes, particularly in his Winnie-the-Pooh books and related poems[10†]. However, despite his success as a children’s writer, it is said that he somewhat resented the fact that he had been pigeonholed purely as a children’s author[10†]. In reality, he had the desire to be recognized as a literary heavyweight of all ages[10†].

In terms of genre, Milne helped to amalgamate the English comedy of manners with the detective genre to create the comic mystery[10†][12†]. He often set his stories in the English country house, isolated from the bustle of the city, a setting that would become the stock setting for the English murder mystery[10†][12†].

Overall, Milne’s work has left a significant impact on children’s literature, with his Winnie-the-Pooh books continuing to be loved by children and adults alike[10†].

Personal Life

Alan Alexander Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt in 1913[3†]. Their only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920[3†]. Christopher Robin was the inspiration for the character of the same name in Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories[3†][1†][13†]. The real Christopher Robin worked hard to distance himself from his fictionalized self[3†][13†].

In October 1952, Milne had a stroke, which left him invalid for more than three years[3†]. He passed away on January 31, 1956[3†]. Posthumously, Milne won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958[3†].

The film “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” tells the story of how A.A. Milne’s popular children’s stories affected his son, the real-life Christopher Robin[3†][13†]. The huge popularity of Winnie-the-Pooh and the fictional alter-ego of Christopher Robin complicated life not only for A.A.’s literary legacy but also for the entire Milne family[3†][13†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Alan Alexander Milne’s legacy is a complex one. While he achieved great success as a writer, the fame of his Winnie-the-Pooh books overshadowed much of his previous work[14†][1†]. He wrote seven novels, five nonfiction books, and 34 plays, along with numerous stories and articles[14†]. However, the enormous fame of the Pooh stories erased the memory of all the work he’d already done[14†].

Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, the inspiration for the character of the same name in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, also struggled with the fame that came with the books[14†][13†]. He worked hard to distance himself from his fictionalized self, refusing to take any of the royalties made off his likeness, and apparently never really forgiving his parents[14†][13†].

Despite the mixed feelings of its creator and his son, the world of Winnie-the-Pooh has left an enduring impact. The enchantment of the Hundred Acre Wood continues to move and enchant readers, offering something true and paradoxically enduring[14†][15†]. Milne’s work has achieved a sort of immortality, continuing to be beloved by children and adults alike[14†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - A. A. Milne [website] - link
  2. Britannica - A.A. Milne: British author [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - A. A. Milne Biography [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - A.A. Milne [website] - link
  5. Biography - A.A. Milne [website] - link
  6. Poetry Foundation - A. A. Milne [website] - link
  7. Famous Authors - A. A. Milne [website] - link
  8. Book Series In Order - A.A. Milne [website] - link
  9. Wikipedia (English) - Winnie-the-Pooh [website] - link
  10. Poem Analysis - A. A. Milne: The Genius Behind the Pen [website] - link
  11. eNotes - A. A. Milne World Literature Analysis [website] - link
  12. eNotes - A. A. Milne Critical Essays [website] - link
  13. JSTOR Daily - The Sad Story of A. A. Milne and the Real-Life Christopher Robin [website] - link
  14. BBC Culture - AA Milne and the curse of Pooh bear - BBC Culture [website] - link
  15. The Guardian - AA Milne, Christopher Robin and the curse of Winnie-the-Pooh [website] - link
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