Alan Alexander Milne was an English author, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various children's poems. Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work.
Young Alan grew up at Henley House School, 6/7 Mortimer Road, Kilburn, London, a small independent school run by his father. One of his teachers at the school was H.G. Wells.
Milne attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied on a mathematics scholarship. Milne's motivation to attend Cambridge was his desire to work on the humorist publication, The Granta. While at Cambridge, he edited and wrote for The Granta, a student magazine. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth on articles, which appeared under the initials, AKM. Eventually, Alan wrote solo and also fulfilled his goal of becoming editor of The Granta. During Alan's years at The Granta, readership increased significantly. His greatest pleasure and satisfaction came through honing his skill at crafting light verse. In 1903, Milne graduated from Cambridge with a degree in mathematics.
Milne's work at The Granta had come to the attention of the leading British humor magazine Punch, where Milne was to become a contributor and later an assistant editor.
Immediately following college graduation, Milne moved to London to write, living on a modest stipend from his father. After sixteen months, the money was nearly gone but he was beginning to earn a meager amount from articles submitted to newspapers and publications like Punch. St. James Gazette was initially his largest income source. In fact, H.G. Wells suggested that a series of articles Milne had written for the Gazette could be the basis for a book. This series became the beginnings of his first book, Lovers in London, published in 1905. Later in 1905, Milne's work was appearing more regularly in Punch.
His income was becoming more steady. As the end of the year closed in, Milne planned to pull back from article writing to focus on a new book.
Instead, Punch editor, Owen Seaman convinced him to become full time assistant editor of the magazine.
Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers Regiment.
Later, after a debilitating illness, he served with the Royal Corps of Signals. After the war, Milne wrote a denunciation of war titled, Peace with Honor (1934), which he retracted somewhat with 1940's War with Honor.
Alan was a generous man. He was a frequent contributor to the Royal Literary Fund, the Children's Country Holiday Fund, and the Society of Authors Fund. He also took great care to save enough money to support both his and Ken's family fully over time.
In 1940, when tensions were building strongly in Europe regarding Hitler, the Milnes moved permanently to Cotchford Farm. Away from the hubbub of the city, Alan and Daphne became the closest they had ever been. Christopher was already a young man.
During World War II, Milne was Captain of the British Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row, insisting on being plain "Mr. Milne" to the members of his platoon.
Milne continued to write during the war. He became one of the most prominent critics of English comic writer P.G. Wodehouse, who was captured at his country home in France by the Nazis and imprisoned for a year. Wodehouse made radio broadcasts about his internment, which were broadcast from Berlin. Although the lighthearted broadcasts made fun of the Germans, Milne accused Wodehouse of committing an act of near treason by cooperating with his country's enemy. (Wodehouse got some revenge by creating fatuous parodies of the Christopher Robin poems in some of his later stories.)
Milne retired to Cotchford Farm in 1952, after a stroke and brain surgery left him an invalid. Although he was only expected to live another six weeks, he survived for more than three years. Sadly, Christopher, who had grown distant from his parents, only visited very occasionally.
Gallery of Children (1925),Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) (illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard),The House at Pooh Corner (1928) (illustrated by E. H. Shepard), The Birthday Party (1948), A Table Near the Band (1950)
Milne did not speak out much on the subject of religion, although he used religious terms to explain his decision, while remaining a pacifist, to join the army: "In fighting Hitler", he wrote, "we are truly fighting the Devil, the Anti-Christ ... Hitler was a crusader against God."His best known comment on the subject was recalled on his death:
"The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course."He also wrote:
Said to her Nan “Please will you tell me how God began? Somebody must have made Him. So
Who could it be, 'cos I want to know?”
— A.A. Milne's poem "Explained"
Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.
Some people care too much, I think it's called love.
Those who are clever, who have a Brain, never understand anything.
Milne was born to John Vine Milne and Sarah Maria Heginbotham in Hampstead, London, England. He was the youngest of three boys.
While growing up, Alan was closer to his father than his mother. His closest family relationship was with his brother Ken. Alan and Ken remained best friends until Ken died of tuberculosis in 1929. In contrast, Alan and his brother Barry were not close. In adulthood, Alan became increasingly alienated from Barry. In spite of the distance between Alan and Barry, Alan was a very kind and supportive friend to Barry's wife, Connie.
Milne married Dorothy "Daphne" de Selincourt, goddaughter of Owen Seaman, in 1913.
Daphne and Alan's only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. In 1925, A. A. Milne bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex. Milne's son, whom he called "Billy Moon" became his muse for many of the children's verses he composed, as well as the Winnie the Pooh books. The woods surrounding Cotchford Farm were the model for 1000 Acre Woods described as Winnie the Pooh and friends' home in the well known stories.