Who Was A.A. Milne?
After attending the University of Cambridge's Trinity College and writing for the literary magazines Granta and Punch, A.A. Milne began a successful career as a novelist, poet and playwright in the 1920s. His best-known works are his two collections of children's poetry, When We Were Young and Now We Are Six, and his two books of stories about the lovable bear Winnie-the-Pooh and his animal friends.
Early Life and Education
Milne was born Alan Alexander Milne on January 18, 1882, in London, England. He and his two older brothers were raised in London by their parents, Sarah Marie (née Heginbotham) and John Vine Milne, the headmaster of a private school named Henley House.
Milne was educated at Westminster School in London and at the University of Cambridge's Trinity College. While at Cambridge, he studied mathematics and also edited and wrote for the student magazine Granta. Realizing that writing was his true vocation, he moved to London after his graduation in 1903. He began writing for the literary magazine Punch in 1906, and his essays and humorous poetry were published in the magazine through 1914.
Wartime Service and Literary Success
Despite being a pacifist, in 1915, Milne served in World War I, enlisting in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and then working in the Royal Corps of Signals.
During his military service, Milne had written his first play, a one-act farce titled Wurzel-Flummery. After the war, he achieved success as a playwright. His comedies of the early 1920s, including Mr. Pim Passes By (1921) and The Dover Road (1921), were enthusiastically received by critics and audiences. He also penned a detective novel titled The Red House Mystery, published in 1922. In 1929 he wrote a stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic children's book The Wind in the Willows, titled Toad of Toad Hall.
Poems and 'Winnie-the-Pooh'
In 1924, Milne applied his long-time talent for light verse to a collection of children's poems titled When We Were Very Young. This book included poems such as "Buckingham Palace" and "Halfway Down," which were inspired by his four-year-old son's pastimes. In 1927, Milne wrote a second volume of verse for young readers, titled Now We Are Six.
Milne's greatest and enduring successes, however, were his books Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). These two volumes told the adventures of a young boy named Christopher Robin, after Milne's own son (Christopher Robin Milne), and his animal playmates, who were inspired by the real Christopher Robin's stuffed toys. A bear named Winnie-the-Pooh was the central character, accompanied by fussy Rabbit, gloomy donkey Eeyore, bouncy tiger Tigger, kind kangaroo Kanga and her baby Roo, wise Owl and shy Piglet.
The adventures of Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, illustrated by artist Ernest H. Shepard, were all best-sellers and made Milne a household name.
Milne married Dorothy "Daphne" de Sélincourt in 1913. The couple had a son, Christopher Robin, born in 1920.
In 2017, a biographical film about Milne's life was released entitled Goodbye Christopher Robin, starring Domhnall Gleeson (as Milne) and Margot Robbie (as Milne's wife).
In the 1930s and '40s, Milne returned to writing for adults, publishing novels, short-story collections and a non-fiction, anti-war book entitled Peace with Honour. He wrote his autobiography, It's Too Late Now, in 1939.
Milne suffered from illness in the early 1950s and died at his home in Hartfield, East Sussex, England, on January 31, 1956. Winnie-the-Pooh and the other characters of the Pooh stories have lived on as iconic figures in children's literature.
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