“ Author: A.A. Milne „
Winnie The Pooh is a household name in this country, but how many of us could name the author of the series of books about the bear. I know until a couple of years ago I could not. A A Milne, is actually Alan Alexander Milne. He was born on January 18th, 1882, and was bought up in London in his father's school, Henley House, with his brothers David Barrett Milne and Kenneth John Milne. While studying there he found inspiration in one of his teachers, H.G. Wells, who amazingly would go on to be a famous writer. After Henley house Alan decided to go to Westminster school and from there to Cambridge studying with a maths scholarship. John Vince Milne decided that when his son had finished his education he would receive £1000 pounds, as would his brothers. Alan took his money and fled to London where he started a career as a author, meanwhile the money ran out and so he was forced to take a job as a freelance writer for local newspaper. In 1905 Alan produced his first book "Lovers in London" which proved to be a failure. Then he took a job at "Punch" writing articles until he made enough money to support himself while writing another book, However Owen Seamen, the owner of Punch told him to wait and offered him the job of assistant editor. Undeterred, he started to write his second book "The Days Play" During this time Owen Seamen introduced Alan to his god daughter, Dorothy De Selincourt they were married in 1913. Two years later Milne volunteered himself for the war, and after training, he became a Signals officer. It was during this time he wrote his first play "Wurzel - Flummery". Milne has produced many plays: Mr Pim Passes by The Lucky One The Dover Road The Romantic Age On the 21st August 1920, his first son Christopher Milne was born. To celebrate this Alan wrote a short verse and gave it to Dorothy as a present, he tol
d her that any money she made on it she could keep. She sent it straight away to magazines, it became a very expensive present. Alan was asked to write more and that's where "The Doormouse and the Doctor" came from, which he wrote for The Merry Go Round magazine. The childish verses became so popular he decided to write a children's book entitled "When We Were Young" published in 1924, Alan decided to call on one of his friends from Punch called Ernest Shepherd, who went on to be a famous children's illustrator. From there the character we all know as Winnie The Pooh was born. Alan got his inspiration from his son Christopher's toys and he wrote "The House at Pooh Corner". Alan claimed this would be his last book, as the enjoyment seemed to have gone from his writing, but he soon realised that all of his dreams focused on his writing, so in 1929 he wrote the equally as well known, "Toad of Toad Hall", and followed it with "The Wind in the Willows". The last book Alan published was "Year in, Year out" in 1952 which proved to be a great success. In October 1952, A.A. Milne had a stroke, for the next three years he lead the life of an invalid. He also ended his life never reconciling with his son, who resented the time and effort Alan put into his writing, and he died on January 31st 1956. In 1961, Dorothy sold the film rights to Walt Disney, who created what we see today as the Winnie the Pooh animated stories, where the characters are cartoon versions of the classic drawings from the original books. His books continue to sell in great numbers, and the merchandising from Winnie The Pooh alone continues to grow each year. I still love the books, as does my daughter, as the stories were simple and the characters so likeable.
A A Milne made his name BEFORE ‘Winnie the Pooh’ you know. A couple of years before the Bear with Little Brain found his way into print ‘When We Were Very Young’ took the nineteen-twenties bookshops by storm. It’s the first of two volumes of poems for children, the second being ‘Now We Are Six’. Being completely tone-deaf and having the most dreadful singing voice that you’ve ever heard (truly) I love to recite poems to my children rather than attempt much in the way of songs, especially unaccompanied. I can do it on the bus, or at the park, or indeed anywhere, and no one laughs! Even poor old tuneless me can do rhythm! Both these volumes of children’s poetry are absolute classics. I loved them when I was ‘Very Young’ and my own children love them now. They may be over seventy years old and as such sometimes reflect a bygone world full of anachronisms but somehow they capture the essence of childhood perfectly. As all parents are doubtless painfully aware a child is the centre of his own universe. Galileo and Copernicus are irrelevancies to them – for a small girl or boy the sun, moon and stars certainly revolve around their earth! A A Milne captures this childish self-centredness perfectly. To Christopher Robin the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is all very well but all he wants to know is ‘Do you think the King knows about ME?’ Who cannot imagine that to be their own child’s reaction? My children certainly identify with it, it makes them laugh because they can see themselves and recognise the reactions and feelings. The poems are long and short, funny and sad, musing and uplifting, but above all rhythmic and easy to read aloud. My family’s favourites are ‘Disobedience’ about James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree (it does scan and has to be the best name going) about a yo
ung boy whose mother is presumptuous enough to go for a walk without him, and ‘Halfway Down’. I’ll give you the first few lines:- Halfway down the stairs Is a stair Where I sit. There isn’t any Other Stair Quite like It Have your children got a favourite stair? Do they collect up their precious belongings; the dummy, the teddy, the blanket, and forget where they’re going halfway up and just sit? Have you watched through the crack in the door, amused and entranced at the same time? If they don’t do that I’ll bet they do something just like it. You’ll enjoy these poems as much as they will!