A. A. Milne Biography


(History of the World: The 20th Century)
ph_0111206386-Milne.jpg A. A. Milne. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: Milne wrote light comedy and drama but was most successful with his stories and poems for children, especially those featuring Winnie-the-Pooh.

Early Life

Alan Alexander Milne was born in London in 1882 the third and youngest son of a school headmaster. Milne won a highly competitive scholarship to Westminster school in 1893 and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1900. Although he was supposed to study mathematics, he devoted his time and energy to writing. In 1902 he was appointed editor of Granta, a prestigious literary magazine at the university.

On graduation in 1903, Milne went to London and became a freelance journalist, publishing mostly sketches and pieces of light humor. Milne sold several dozen poems and short items to Punch, the leading British humor magazine. In 1906 these brought him to the attention of Punch’s new editor, Owen Seaman, who offered him an assistantship. Milne accepted and, as a staff writer over the next eight years, published a constant stream of witty and charming trifles that established his reputation. Many of his pieces were collected and reappeared as books—The Days Play (1910), The Holiday Round (1912), and Once a Week (1914). In 1913, capping his growing success, he married his editor’s goddaughter, Dorothy de Selincourt.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Milne took a leave of absence from the magazine and enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Serving as a signals officer, he was sent to the front in France in late July, 1916, for the great battle of the Somme, where the British army suffered its most severe casualties in a long and bloody war. By early November, after three and one-half months in the trenches around the Mametz Woods, Milne was lucky to be sent home as an invalid with a severe case of trench fever. This probably saved his life.

After some months recuperating, he did the rest of his military service in Britain turning out propaganda for the War Office. He used his free time in the army to write plays. In the face of endless casualty lists, it seemed inappropriate to continue publishing his usual collections of amusing material from Punch. He did, however, allow a “fairy tale for adults,” Once on a Time, to appear in 1917. That year, his friend Sir James Barrie, one of the most successful playwrights of the day, had Milne’s short farce Wurzel-Flummery produced with some success in the West End (the London equivalent of Broadway) as part of an evening of his own short plays. On being demobilized from the army early in 1919, Milne gave up his editorial position at Punch to take up his own independent writing career full time.

Life’s Work

Milne’s first play after returning to civilian life, Mr. Pim Passes By (1919), was quickly produced on the West End to great acclaim and launched his career as a major writer for the London stage for the following decade. Mr. Pim Passes By was soon followed by seven other plays through 1924, including The Dover Road (1922) and The Great Broxapp (1923). In addition, Milne wrote a best-selling “whodunit,” The Red House Mystery (1922), a novelized version of Mr. Pim, and published several new collections of his short humorous pieces and poems from Punch, Vanity Fair, and elsewhere titled Not That It Matters (1919), If I May (1920), and The Sunny Side (1922). In the midst of this flood of productivity, in August, 1920, the Milnes had their first and only child, a little boy they named Christopher Robin.

Milne was rather shy and reserved, as his father had been. Though Christopher Robin was usually looked after by a nursemaid, Milne began to write poems and songs to amuse him when they spent time together. His wife suggested that these should be published. After some had appeared individually, Milne had them collected as When We Were Very Young (1924), which rapidly became a considerable success. Though Milne continued to turn out a generally well received drawing-room comedy for the West End stage every year or two for the rest of the decade, the poems, songs, and stories written for his son began to overshadow his other work.

As Christopher Robin grew a little older, his father made him and his teddy bear the leading characters in a series of short stories. They appeared in 1926 as Winnie-the-Pooh, with delightful illustrations by an old colleague from Punch, E. H. Shepard. The book immediately captured the hearts of children and adults alike across the English-speaking world....

(The entire section is 1937 words.)

A. A. Milne Biography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Alan Alexander Milne, born in London on January 18, 1882, was the youngest son of John Vine Milne, the headmaster of Henley House, an exclusive school for boys. Milne won a scholarship to Westminster School, where he started to write light verse for the school magazine. Eventually, Milne went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study mathematics; his attention, however, was diverted toward literary pursuits as he became editor of Granta, the college’s literary magazine. Although he was graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, he failed to meet his father’s expectations. Using part of his inheritance, he went to London to earn a living as a freelance journalist, publishing articles in Vanity Fair and Punch. After one year, he had exhausted his funds and earned only twenty pounds. Eventually, he started writing for Punch, Great Britain’s leading satirical journal, and in 1906, he became assistant editor, a position he held until the beginning of World War I. In 1913, he married Dorothy de Sélincourt (because, he said, she had laughed at his jokes and memorized his articles). A year later, he joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was stationed in France.

During the war years, Milne turned to writing plays and children’s literature. Encouraged by his wife, who acted as his scribe, he completed a children’s book, Once on a Time (1917), and wrote his first play of note, Wurzel-Flummery (pr. 1917). Suffering from trench fever, he returned to England and completed the war years writing propaganda for the intelligence service.

After the war, Milne did not go back to Punch; instead, he launched his career as a playwright and children’s author. Inspired by British playwright Sir James Barrie and actor-manager Dion Boucicault, Milne became the successful author of a series of light comedies. His comedy Mr. Pim Passes By (pr. 1919) ran for 246 performances on the London stage. Always moving in new directions, Milne scored a success with his detective novel The Red House Mystery. Next he began to focus on children’s literature, achieving lasting fame with Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). During the 1930’s and 1940’s, he continued to write, although never equaling his earlier efforts. He died on January 31, 1956, at the age of seventy-four.

A. A. Milne Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alan Alexander Milne was born at Henley House in the Hampstead district of London on January 18, 1882. Henley House was a school at which his father, John Vine Milne, taught. The youngest of the three sons of John and the former Sarah Maria Heginbotham, he displayed his love of language early and was writing letters to family members by the time he was four. Among the books he loved as a young boy were Reynard the Fox and Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus books. Two years before Milne’s birth, Ernest Howard Shepard, who would illustrate his books for children, was born in the same neighborhood, but the two did not meet until their adult years. When Milne was eight years old, he wrote “My Three Days’ Walking Tour,” which appeared in a publication of the school. It is significant because the setting, Ashdown Forest, would eventually become the model of the Hundred Acre Wood, the abode of the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

His early education took place at Henley House, where one of his teachers was H. G. Wells. Wells, who would become one of England’s illustrious writers, remained a friend and supporter of his former student. Alan Milne and his brother Kenneth, who were always close, enrolled in Westminster School in 1893, where Alan prepared for Trinity College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1900. There he edited Granta, a publication sometimes referred to as “the Cambridge Punch,” referring to the famous English humor magazine. In the meantime he decided that he did not want to follow his father into teaching. His father, although disappointed, supported Milne in his efforts to become an...

(The entire section is 676 words.)

A. A. Milne Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

A. A. Milne’s originality as a writer for children begins with his translation of children’s animal toys to a woods, where they take on the being of characters with distinctive personalities, speech habits, and a desire to fashion their own kind of life. Milne’s animals play with each other and with language itself. He had an extraordinary ability to assume and express a childlike point of view. The only significant human in these books is a child, but to Pooh and Piglet and the other animals he serves as a helpful and sympathetic substitute parent. The Hundred Acre Wood is as safe as a nursery but more exciting because it is a place where adventures and small misadventures sometimes end instructively but always end happily....

(The entire section is 128 words.)

A. A. Milne Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alan Alexander Milne will forever be remembered as the author of the well-known and well-loved tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin, and the other denizens of the fictional Hundred Acre Wood. While his reputation as a children’s writer will ensure his legacy, he also wanted to be remembered as a prolific adult dramatist, essayist, and novelist.

Born in 1882, the youngest son of John Vine Milne, the master of a private school for boys, A. A. Milne attended his father’s school, Henley House. It was there that he was first introduced to the author H. G. Wells, who was employed at Henley as a mathematics instructor. In his later years Wells would offer Milne encouragement and advice in matters of...

(The entire section is 1125 words.)