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.