English author and playwright, Alan Alexander Milne, better known as A.A. Milne, published three novels and 18 plays. His novels include a popular detective story called “The Red House Mystery,” and his plays include original works, as well as book adaptations, such as, “Toad of Toad Hall,” a dramatization of the beloved children’s book, “The Wind in the Willows.”
Yet, Milne is remembered not for his novels and plays, but rather, for his imaginary Hundred Acre Wood, a boy named Christopher Robin, and most importantly, for a lovable bear named Pooh. For this reason, on January 18th we celebrate Milne’s birthday as National Winnie-the-Pooh Day.
Born in 1882, A. A. Milne studied mathematics and received a B.A. from Cambridge University in 1903. Following graduation, he began to contribute articles to Punch, a British weekly humor magazine. Three years later, the magazine hired Milne as an assistant editor.
In 1913, Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt. Their son and only child, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920.
It was in 1924 that things began to change for Milne. In February that year, he published a collection of children’s poems entitled “When We Were Very Young,” illustrated by Punch staff cartoonist E. H. Shepard. A year later, Milne published his second children’s book, “A Gallery of Children,” followed by “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926. Successful sales of these books turned out to be a double-edged sword for Milne. Suddenly respected as a children’s author, Milne’s earlier novels and plays were soon forgotten, a reality that bothered him for the rest of his life.
While Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” books overshadowed his other accomplishments, the books negatively affected his son, Christopher. In his 1974 memoir, “The Enchanted Places,” Christopher speaks about his early years at boarding school where he had a full-fledged “love-hate relationship with my fictional namesake” that continued into adulthood. “At home I still liked him, indeed felt at times quite proud that I shared his name and was able to bask in some of his glory. At school, however, I began to dislike him, and I found myself disliking him more and more the older I got.” Bullied in school, the younger Milne began to resent his father. Their strained relationship was never truly resolved.
A.A. Milne once said “a writer wants something more than money for his work: he wants permanence.” Milne accomplished this, perhaps not in the way that he had hoped. But for readers everywhere, the author’s endearing stories of love, kindness and compassion touch hearts. Chances are they will continue to do so long into the future.
Here are some A.A. Milne books we carry in at DBRL: