Alan Alexander Milne, better known as A. A. Milne, was born in Kilburn, London, England in January of 1882. His father was John Vine Milne, from Jamaica, and Sarah Marie Milne. Milne’s father worked the same public school, Henley House, that Milne grew up at. While there he was instructed by teachers such as H. G. Wells.
Early Life and Education
His education continued at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied on a math scholarship and later graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1903. While enrolled at Trinity he worked as the editor for Granta, a student run magazine. He also submitted articles to the publication, using the initials AKM. This early work was noticed by Punch, the leading humour magazine. They later hired Milne as a contributor and assistant editor in 1906.
Over the following years he published eighteen plays and three novels. One of the better known of this period is The Red House Mystery. In 1913 Milne married Dorothy de Sélincourt. Their son, Christopher Robin, was born seven years later. After his birth Milne wrote a collection of children’s poems titled, When We Were Very Young. They were illustrated by one of his colleagues, E. H. Shepard.
World War I
During World War I Milne saved as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He suffered from an undetermined illness and was later reassigned to the Royal Corps of Signals. Milne was commissioned as a second lieutenant in February of 1915 and was injured during the Battle of the Somme in July of the next year. When he recovered he was recruited into Military Intelligence and began writing for MI7. This posting lasted for two years before he was discharged in 1919.
After leaving the army he made a home for himself in Chelsea. He later bought a country home in Hartfield, East Sussex. A few years after the war ended he penned the volume, Peace with Honour. The piece vehemently denounced the war, a position he retreated from by the time he published War with Honour in 1940. A few years after the birth of his son, Milne wrote another volume aimed at a young audience, A Gallery of Children. It was published in 1925 is now considered to be part of the Winnie-the-Pooh books for which he is best known.
It was also around this period that he wrote for the British film industry. There were four stories he completed that were later filmed for the Minerva Films company. These included, Five Pound Reward and Bookworms.
It is for his two Winne-the-Pooh books that Milne is best-known today. They contain stories about a boy named Christopher Robin and an array of animals. A number of elements of the stories derive from Milne’s own world. The “Hundred Acres Wood” comes from the “Five Hundred Acre Wood” in East Sussex and the child, Christopher, is named after this own son. The inspiration for Pooh comes from his child’s own stuffed animal.
The character that would later be known as Pooh first appeared in the poem, ‘Teddy Bear’ published in February of 1924 in Punch. It was republished in the collection When We Were Very Young. By name, Pooh appeared for the first time in the London Evening News in 1925. In 1927 Milne published Now We Are Six. It was a collection of nursery rhymes and a part of a set of four books which were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
The books were incredibly successful, a fact which came to annoy the writer. It had been his goal to write in whatever style he chose but with an audience at hand that became more difficult. Throughout his life he wrote plays, screenplays, detective stories, and of course children’s literature and poetry.
In 1930 Milne adapted the novel The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, for the stage. It was performed as Toad of Toad Hall. Later in life the relationship between Milne, his wife, and son became strained. The real Christopher Robin felt as if his childhood had been exploited and he deeply disliked the public attention his family received.
During the years of World War I, Milne was Captain of the British Home Guard in Hatfield & Forest Row. In 1952 he had a stroke and later brain surgery which forced him to retire permanently to his farm. Alan Alexander Milne died in January of 1956 a the age of 74.