A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

WinnieBest known for Winnie the Pooh, the English Author, poet and playwright Alan Alexander Milne was born 18 January 1882 in Hampstead London. He grew up at Henley House School, 6/7 Mortimer Road (now Crescent), Kilburn, a small public school run by his father. One of his teachers was H. G. Wells, who taught there in 1889–90. Milne attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, 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. After graduating from Cambridge in 1903, A. A. Milne contributed humorous verse and whimsical essays to Punch, the staff in 1906 and becoming an assistant editor.During this period he published 18 plays and 3 novels, including the murder mystery The Red House Mystery (1922). His son was born in August 1920 and in 1924 Milne produced a collection of children’s poems When We Were Very Young, which were illustrated by Punch staff cartoonist E. H. Shepard. A collection of short stories for children Gallery of Children, and other stories that became part of the Winnie-the-Pooh books, were first published in 1925.

Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and later, after a debilitating illness, the Royal Corps of Signals. He was recruited into Military Intelligence to write propaganda articles between 1916 and 1918. He was discharged on 14 February 1919, & settled in Mallord Street, Chelsea. 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 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 light-hearted 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 on his former friend (e.g., in The Mating Season) by creating fatuous parodies of the Christopher Robin poems in some of his later stories, and claiming that Milne “was probably jealous of all other writers…. But I loved his stuff.Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt 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.During World War II, A. A. Milne was Captain of the Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row, insisting on being plain “Mr. Milne” to the members of his platoon.

Milne was an early screenwriter for the British film industry, writing four stories filmed in 1920 for the company Minerva Films (founded in 1920 by the actor Leslie Howard and his friend and story editor Adrian Brunel). These were The Bump, starring Aubrey Smith; Twice Two; Five Pound Reward; and Bookworms. Some of these films survive in the archives of the British Film Institute. Milne had met Howard when the actor starred in Milne’s play Mr Pim Passes By in London. Milne is most famous for his two Pooh books about a boy named Christopher Robin after his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and various characters inspired by his son’s stuffed animals, most notably the bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. Christopher Robin Milne’s stuffed bear, originally named “Edward”,was renamed “Winnie-the-Pooh” after a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), which was used as a military mascot in World War I, and left to London Zoo during the war. “The pooh” comes from a swan called “Pooh”. E. H. Shepard illustrated the original Pooh books, using his own son’s teddy, Growler (“a magnificent bear”), as the model.

The rest of Christopher Robin Milne’s toys, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger, were incorporated into A. A. Milne’s stories,two more characters – Rabbit and Owl – were created by Milne’s imagination. Christopher Robin Milne’s own toys are now under glass in New York. The fictional Hundred Acre Wood of the Pooh stories derives from Five Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, South East England, where the Pooh stories were set. Milne lived on the northern edge of the Forest and took his son walking there. E. H. Shepard drew on the landscapes of Ashdown Forest as inspiration for many of the illustrations he provided for the Pooh books. The adult Christopher Robin commented: “Pooh’s Forest and Ashdown Forest are identical”. wooden Pooh Bridge in Ashdown Forest, where Pooh and Piglet inventedPoohsticks, is a tourist attraction.Not yet known as Pooh, he made his first appearance in a poem, “Teddy Bear”, published in the British magazine Punch in February 1924. Pooh first appeared in the London Evening News on Christmas Eve, 1925, in a story called “The Wrong Sort Of Bees”.Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926, followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. A second collection of nursery rhymes, Now We Are Six, was published in 1927. All three books were illustrated by E. H. Shepard. Milne also published four plays in this period. He also “gallantly stepped forward” to contribute a quarter of the costs of dramatising P. G. Wodehouse’s A Damsel in Distress.His book The World of Pooh won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958.

Milne, also 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 criticised byRaymond Chandler for the implausibility of its plot). But once Milne had, in his own words, “said goodbye to all that in 70,000 words” (the approximate length of his four principal children’s books), he had no intention of producing any reworkings lacking in originality, 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:  Even his old literary home, Punch, where the When We Were Very Young verses had first appeared, rejected him, as Christopher Milne details in his autobiography The Enchanted Places. Milne also wrote ‘The Norman Church’ and an assembly of articles entitled Year In, Year Out He also adapted Kenneth Grahame’s novel The Wind in the Willows for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall. A special introduction written by Milne is included in some editions of Grahame’s novel.

A.A Milne sadly passed away in 1956 and The rights to A. A. Milne’s Pooh books were left to four beneficiaries: his family, the Royal Literary Fund, Westminster School and the Garrick Club, his widow sold her rights to the Pooh characters to Stephen Slesinger, whose widow sold the rights after Slesinger’s death to the Walt Disney Company, which has since made many Pooh cartoon movies, a Disney Channel television show, as well as Pooh-related merchandise. In 2001, the other beneficiaries sold their interest in the estate to the Disney Corporation. Forbes magazine ranks Winnie the Pooh the most valuable fictional character; in 2002 Winnie the Pooh merchandising products alone had annual sales of more than $5.9 billion. A memorial plaque in Ashdown Forest, unveiled by Christopher Robin in 1979, commemorates the work of A. A. Milne and Shepard in creating the world of Pooh.Milne once wrote of Ashdown Forest: “In that enchanted place on the top of the forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing”. In 2003, Winnie the Pooh was listed at number 7 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.Several of Milne’s children’s poems were set to music by the composer Harold Fraser-Simson and his poems have been parodied many times, including with the books When We Were Rather Older and Now We Are Sixty.

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