Famous Like Me > Writer > M > A.A. Milne
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Profile of A.A. Milne
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|Date of Birth:
||18th January 1882
|Place of Birth:
||London, England, UK
Alan Alexander Milne (January 18, 1882 – January 31, 1956), also known as A. A. Milne, was a British author, best known for his books about the talking stuffed bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, and for various children's poems. Milne had made several reputations, most notably as a playwright, before the shade of Pooh obscured all else.
Milne was born in Scotland but raised in London at a small private school in Kilburn run by his father John Vine Milne. One of his teachers was H. G. Wells. He attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied on a mathematics scholarship. While there, he edited and wrote for Granta, a student magazine. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth, articles appearing 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 assistant editor of Punch.
His son Christopher Robin was born in 1920. Milne joined the British Army in World War I but after the war wrote a denunciation of war titled Peace with Honour (1934) (which he retracted somewhat in 1940 with War with Honour). In 1925, he bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex. This farm is where he retired after brain surgery in 1952 left him an invalid.
Milne is most famous for his Pooh books, which feature a boy named Christopher Robin, after his son, and various characters inspired by his son's stuffed animals, most notably the bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. (Reputedly, a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), used as a military mascot by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, a Canadian Infantry Regiment in World War I and left to London Zoo after the war, is the source of the name.) E. H. Shepard illustrated the original Pooh books, using his own teddy, Growler ("a magnificent bear") as the model; Christopher Robin's own toys are now under glass in New York.
The overwhelming success of his children's books was to become a source of considerable annoyance to Milne, whose self-avowed aim was to write whatever he pleased, and who until then had found a ready audience for each change of direction: he had freed prewar Punch from its ponderous facetiousness; he had made a considerable reputation as a playwright (not dissimilar to his idol JM Barrie) on both sides of the Atlantic; he had produced a durable, character-led and witty piece of detective writing in The Red House Mystery - indeed, his publisher was not altogether pleased when he announced his intention to write poems for children - and he had never lacked an audience.
But once Milne had, in his own words, "said Goodbye to all that in 70,000 words" - the approximate length of the four children's books - he had no intention of producing a copy of a copy, 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 ebbed away from him: he observed bitterly in his autobiography that a critic had said that the hero of his latest play ("God help it") was simply "Christopher Robin grown up ... what an obsession with me children are become!"
Even his old home, Punch, where the When We Were Very Young verses had first appeared, was ultimately to reject him, as Christopher Milne details in his autobiography The Enchanted Places, though Methuen continued to publish whatever Milne wrote, including the long poem The Norman Church and an assembly of articles entitled Year In, Year Out (which Milne likened to a benefit night for the author).
After Milne's death, the rights to the Pooh characters were sold by his widow, Daphne to the Walt Disney Company, which has made a number of Pooh cartoon movies, as well as a large amount of Pooh-related merchandise. She also destroyed his papers.
Milne also wrote a number of poems, including Vespers, They're Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace, and King John's Christmas, which were published in the books When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. His poems have been parodied many times, including the books When We Were Rather Older and Now We Are Sixty.
He also adapted Kenneth Grahame's novel The Wind in the Willows for the stage as Toad of Toad Hall, the title an implicit admission that the magic in such chapters as The Piper at the Gates of Dawn could not survive translation to the stage.
There are a number of highly readable books about Milne. His friend Frank Swinnerton's book The Georgian Literary Scene contains a substantial section about him; his son has written several books of autobiography: The Enchanted Places, in particular, is an account of his attempt to escape from the shadow of a famous father and a burdensome name; The Path Through the Trees continues the story into adult life. Ann Thwaites' AA Milne: His Life is an excellent and detailed biography, although it gives little space to the plays; a spin-off book tells the story for a younger readership, concentrating on Pooh, with numerous pictures of Pooh-related merchandise.
- Lovers in London, (1905) (Some consider this more of a short story collection; Milne didn't like it and considered The Day's Play as his first book)
- Once on a Time, (1917) [a fairytale with an adult slant]
- Mr. Pim Passes By, (1921)
- The Red House Mystery, (1921)
- Two People, (1931) (Inside jacket claims this is Milne's first attempt at a novel.)
- Four Days Wonder, (1933)
- Chloe Marr, (1946)
- Peace with Honour, (1934)
- It's Too Late Now, (1939) (autobiography)
- War with Honour, (1940)
- Year In, Year Out, (1952)
- The Day's Play, (1910)
- Once a Week, (1914)
- The Holiday Round, (1912)
- The Sunny Side, (1921)
- Those Were the Days, (1929 [selection of Punch pieces from the above four books]
Selections of newspaper articles and introductions to books by others:
- Not That It Matters, (1920)
- By Way of Introduction, (1929)
Story Collections for Children
- Gallery of Children, (1925)
- Winnie-the-Pooh, (1926)
- The House at Pooh Corner, (1928)
Short Stories A Table by the Band
For the Luncheon Interval [poems from Punch]
- When We Were Very Young, (1924)
- Now We Are Six, (1927)
- Behind the Lines, (1940)
- The Norman Church, (1948)
Milne wrote over 25 plays including:
- Wurzel-Flummery, (1917)
- Belinda, (1918)
- The Boy Comes Home, (1918)
- Make-Believe, (1918) [a play for children]
- The Camberley Triangle, (1919)
- Mr. Pim Passes By, (1919)
- The Red Feathers, (1920)
- The Romantic Age, (1920)
- The Stepmother, (1920)
- The Truth about Blayds, (1920)
- The Dover Road, (1921)
- The Lucky One, (1922)
- The Artist: a Duologue, (1923)
- Give Me Yesterday, (1923) [ aka Success in the UK]
- The Great Broxopp, (1923)
- Ariadne, (1924)
- The Man in the Bowler Hat, (1924) [one act]
- To Have the Honour, (1924)
- Portrait of a Gentleman in Slippers, (1926)
- Success; a play in three acts, (1926)
- Miss Marlow at Play, (1927)
- The Fourth Wall or The Perfect Alibi, (1928)
- The Ivory Door, (1929)
- Toad of Toad Hall, (1929) (Adaptation of The Wind in the Willows)
- Other People's Lives, (1933) [aka They Don't Mean Any Harm]
- Miss Elizabeth Bennett (based on Pride and Prejudice?, (1936)
- Sarah Simple, (1937)
- Gentleman Unknown, (1938)
- The Ugly Duckling based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, (1946)
- Before the Flood, (1951)
- Michael and Mary
- The Fourth Wall was made into a film called The Perfect Alibi
- Michael and Mary was filmed in 1932
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