Alan Alexander Milne was born in London on January 18, 1882. He was the third and youngest son of London schoolteachers, and to the surprise of no one in the family, he could read when he was two. As a schoolboy he began to write verses, parodies, and short humorous pieces for his school’s paper. He went on to Cambridge, where he edited the undergraduate paper.
In 1903 he left school and went to London to write. At the end of a year he had spent all of his money and earned almost nothing. He continued writing. During the second year he earned considerably more and supported himself on his earnings. In 1906 he was offered a position at Punchmagazine. He was an editor at Punch for the next eight years, during which time he wrote his first book; three collections of his contributions to the magazine were also published.
In 1913 he married Dorothy, known as Daphne, de Selincourt. In 1915, during World War I, he enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and served in France. During his military service he wrote three plays, all of which were produced on the London stage.
After the war he declined to return to Punch, choosing instead to write when and where he pleased. In 1919 his play Mr. Pim Passes By was a huge success, affording the Milnes financial independence.
Christopher Robin Milne, the author’s only child, was born in 1920. He soon became an inspiration to his father, who later wrote:
If a writer, why not write
On whatever comes in sight?
So – the Children’s Book; a short
Intermezzo of a sort:
When I wrote them, little thinking
All my years of pen-and-inking
Would be almost lost among
Those four trifles for the young.
When Christopher Robin was a year old, he was given a stuffed bear from Harrods, and later a tiger, pig, and donkey. The idea of bringing these toys to life in a children’s book is credited to Daphne Milne. In 1924 A. A. Milne had published When We Were Very Young, a collection of verses, which had met with great success on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1926 Winnie-The-Pooh was released, promptly establishing Milne as a major author of children’s books. Now We Are Six, a second collection of verses, followed in 1927. In 1928 came The House At Pooh Corner. All four were illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, who visited the Milnes at Cotchford Farm and based his drawings on Christopher Robin and his toys.
The Pooh books have reached a worldwide audience. While A. A. Milne is remembered primarily for his children’s books, he did go on to write more plays, a detective novel, political nonfiction, and his autobiography.
Alan Alexander Milne died on January 31, 1956.