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||A(lan) A(lexander) Milne (1882-1956)|
English writer, the creator of Winnie-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 (1922), 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,
Alexander Milne was born in London. His father, John V. Milne, 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 said
of his father that he "was the best man I have ever known: by which I
mean the most truly good, the most completely to be trusted, the most
incapable of wrong...." (Fathers of Influence: Inspiring Stories of Men Who Made a Difference in Their Children and Their World, 2006, pp. 60-61) Milne's mother, Sarah Maria Heginbotham, entrusted the upbringing of her sons to her husband.
A gifted mathematician, Milne won a scholarship to Westminster School when he was only eleven. He studied mathematics at Trinity College, 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, becoming the magazine's assistant editor.
At H.G. Wells's suggestion Milne turned some of his sketches into a novel. His first book, Lovers in London, came out in 1905. His next books were collections of his Punch pieces. In the 1910s he became well known as a playwright, notably for Mr Pim Passes By (1919). In 1913 Milne married Dorothy de Sêlincourt – "She laughed at my jokes," he said 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 in the war left him a lifelong nostalgia for the idyllic fantasies of childhood. "A 'children's book' must be written, not for children, but for the author himself," he once said. 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 The Dover Road (1921) continued Milne's success. Toad of Toad Hall (1929), based on Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), seems to have survived perhaps better than his original work. Milne's 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 usually solved crosswords.
Milne's The Red House Mystery draws heavily on the tradition of Sherlock Holmes. Its lack of realistic details and cosy atmosphere prompted 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." ('The Simple Art of Murder,' in Pearls Are Nuisance, 1964, p. 188 ) Milne's other mysteries include Four Days' Wonder (1933) and the drama The Fourth Wall (1928), which was made into a film under the little Birds of Prey (1930; U.S. title: The Perfect Alibi), directed by Basil Dean.
At the age of 42 Milne published When We Were Very Young, a collection of poetry for children. It was illustrated by his friend and colleague from Punch, E.H. Shepard, who was paid fifty pounds for the job. Winnie-the-Pooh. followed two years later. 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. He traveled to Sussex, where the Milne family lived, visited the pine trees and other places, and Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals. 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. Shepard illustrated books for nearly thirty years, among them Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.
Winnie-the-Pooh has been the target of psychological analysis – noteworthy is the absence of Christopher Robin's mother. However, this is not a unique trait of the book. Walt Disney also 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 his thoughts in The Norman Church (1948). His son Christopher received a 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 coping with the legendary literary figure created about him. He also said that his mother, Daphne, invented stories about toy animals and provided most of the material for his father's books. His relationship with his parents Christopher Milne analyzed in Enchanted Places (1975), in which he emphasized that his father did not feel sentimental about children. Noteworthy, Milne's 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'. Dorothy Milne sent it originally to Vanity Fair in New York, where it was published in January 1923. Christopher Robin described 'Vespers' as "the one [work] that has brought me over the years more toe-curling, fist-clenching, lip-biting embarrassment than any other."
In the 1930s and 40s Milne was active in religious and pacifist polemics. He was certain that war would extinguish civilization. Milne recognized the threat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy but regarded preparations for defense as dangerous to peace as preparations for war. 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 put it.
During WW II, after P.G. Wodehouse
made some light-hearted broadcasts from Germany for CBS radio shortly
after being captured in 1940, Milne broke with his former friend and
became his bitter opponent. "We were supposed to be quite good friends,
but, you know, in a sort of way I think he was a pretty jealous chap",
Wodehouse explained later in an interview. "I think he was probably
jealous of all other writers." ('P.G. Wodehouse (1975)' in The Paris Review Interviews, IV, introduction by Salman Rushdie, 2009, p. 168) Milne gave up his pacifism for a period.
Like many famous British authors, from H.G. Wells and Somerset Maugham
to C.S. Forester, he was enlisted by the British Information Services
(BIS) to do propaganda work. In Hartfield and Forest Row he served as a
Captain of the Home Guard. Christopher Milne fought in the
Middle East and Italy. While in Trieste, he fell in love with a girl
named Hedda. Christopher Milne tells in his autobiography The Path Through the Trees (1979) that she taught him "a lot of things: about Italy, about
Italians, about women, about love". Moreover, she helped him to loosen
the bond that tied him to his father.
An operation on Milne's brain in 1952 left him an invalid during the last four years of his life. "It is ghastly to think of anyone who wrote such gay stuff ending his life like this," Wodewhouse said in a letter. (P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, edited by Sophie Ratcliffe, 2011, p. 467) Milne 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. When Winnie-the Pooh was first published in the United States, Milne wrote a tribute to his collaborator Ernest Shephard: "When I am gone / Let Shephard decorate my tomb, / And put (if there is room) / Two pictures on the stone; / Piglet from page a hundred and eleven / And Pooh and Piglet walking (157) . . . / And Peter, thinking that they are my own, / Will welcome me to heaven."
For further reading: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne (1974); A.A. Milne: A Critical Biography by Tori Haring-Smith (1982); Secret Gardens by H. Carpenter (1985); A.A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh by A. Thwaite (1990); A.A. Milne by J.C. Wheeler and R.A. Walner (1992); The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh by Ann Thwaite (1994); The Pooh Dictionary by A.R. Melrose (1995); The Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A. A. Milne by Jackie Wullschlager (1996); A. A. Milne: His Life by Ann Thwaite (2007); Goodbye Christopher Robin: A.A. Milne and the Making of Winnie-the-Pooh by Ann Thwaite (2017); The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh: How E. H. Shepard Illustrated an Icon by James Campbell (2017); Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic by Annemarie Bilclough and Emma Laws (2017) - Note: Rolling Stone guitarist Brian Jones was found dead on July 3, 1969 in his swimming pool at Cotchford Farms, the former home of A. A. Milne, and the setting of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Other classic English children's fantasies: Lewis Carroll's Alice books, Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Richard Adam's Watership Down. Other translations into Finnish: Suomeksi on julkaistu myös Nalle Puh - kootut kertomukset ja runot (1997, Winnie-the-Pooh: the Complete Collection of Stories and Poems), joka sisältää Winnie-The-Pooh -teoksen lisäksi myös lorukirjat When We Were Very Young ja Now We Are Six. Muita suomennoksia: Kaniinin aamiainen (1987, The King's Breakfast); Nalle Puh seikkailee (1980, Winnie the Pooh - Walt Disney adaptation); Puhin jumppakirja (1991); Nalle Puhin mietekirja (1991, several rep., The Pooh Book of Quotations); Nalle Puhin päiväkirja (1991, Winnie the Pooh Journal)