Even if you are not familiar with the tales revolving around the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh, you probably should be aware of English author Alan Alexander Milne, better known as A. A. Milne. Milne was primarily a playwright at the time he came to pen his first Pooh-related story.
Born in Kilburn, London, England on Wednesday, 18 Jan. 1882, Milne was the son of John Vine and Sarah Marie Milne. Milne attended the Henley House School, a small public school administered by his father.
For clarification, specifically for American readers, the terminology “public school” used here revolves around the British definition as it is a British school which is being written of. In the British Isles, the term “public school” pertains to independent schools, often referred to as private schools. In the United States, the terms “public schools” and “private schools” are not synonymous. With significant differences in the way in which the language is applied, there is often confusion between British and American English.
H. G. Wells was arguably one of the greatest authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While many people will recall Wells as being an accomplished author, it should be noted he was an excellent teacher.
From 1889 to 90, Wells was employed as a teacher at the Milne operated Henley House School. It was here that the young A. A. Milne met Wells.
After graduating from his father’s school, Milne went on to attend Westminster School and then Trinity College, Cambridge. Studying on a mathematics scholarship, Milne graduated from Trinity College in 1903 with a bachelor of arts in mathematics. It was while he was a student at Trinity College, Milne was the editor-in-chief of the literary student run magazine “Granta.”
The “Granta,” first published in 1889, is a quarterly magazine. Relaunched on Saturday, 1 Sept. 1979, the current editor-in-chief is Sigrid Rausing.
Wells was not the only author Milne had met during his lifetime. Milne, an avid amateur cricketer, played for Allahakbarries. It was as a Allahakbarries team member, Milne met J. M. Barrie and Arthur Conan Doyle.
In 1913, Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt.
During the First World War, Milne did his patriotic duty and joined the British Army as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. On Wednesday, 17 Feb. 1915, Milne was successful in securing an officer’s commission with the Royal Warwickshire’s 4th Battalion as a second lieutenant. Ten months later, on Monday, 20 Dec. 1915, Milne’s commission was confirmed.
After suffering a significant injury in the Battle of the Somme, on Friday, 7 July 1916, Milne was invalided back to Blighty.
For anyone not familiar with the word “Blighty,” it is a British English slang term commonly associated with Britain or more specifically England. During the First World War, the word “Blighty” was frequently used by British Tommies returning from the frontlines to British shores. The British Tommy, singular, is a reference to a soldier within the British Army.
Once Milne had fully recuperated, he was recruited into Military Intelligence where he wrote various propaganda articles for MI 7b. MI 7, now defunct, was British Military Intelligence Section 7. The part of the organization Milne worked for, 7b, worked on foreign and domestic propaganda. This of course included press releases pertaining to matters relating to the British Army. The other three sections of the now defunct organization, MI 7a, MI 7c and MI 7d, worked on censorship, translation and regulation of foreign visitors; and foreign press propaganda and review, respectively. The formation of section 7d, in 1916, saw several duties which were initially the responsibility of section 7b transferred to them.
Formally discharged from military service on Friday, 14 Feb. 1919, Milne settled on Mallord Street in Chelsea. While the author relinquished his commission a year later, on Thursday, 19 Feb. 1920, Milne was still able to retain his rank of lieutenant.
Some seven years after his marriage to Daphne, their son, Christopher Robin was born.
With novels such as the 1922 published “The Red House Mystery,” the author had established himself as well-recognizable literary figure. Inspired by the birth of his son, Christopher Robin, in 1920, Milne produced a collection of children’s poems which were published in 1924 under the title “When We Were Very Young.”
If the name “Christopher Robin” rings a bell with readers, there is a logical reason for that. Milne based one of his two principle characters on his son.
In 1925, Milne made a wise investment in a country home. Located in Hartfield, East Sussex, Milne purchased Cotchford Farm.
In 1934, Milne published “Peace with Honour.” While this publication is frequently seen as a denunciation of war, Milne’s 1940 book “War with Honour” is considered a retraction of much of what the author wrote in the earlier work.
During the Second World War, Milne was a captain in the British Home Guard. Anyone familiar with the Jimmy Perry created British television comedy series “Dad’s Army” will know of the Home Guard. While the television series presented a comedic view of a ragtag group of Home Guard volunteers that were apparently prepared for an imminent German invasion, the truth of the matter was very different. It gave men of Milne’s generation something meaningful to do. They, as the British would say, were doing “their bit” towards the war effort. For Milne, his bit towards the war effort, was being the Captain of the British Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row.
After suffering a stroke and undergoing brain surgery, in 1952, Milne retired to his East Sussex residence, Cotchford Farm. With ailing health, by mid-1953, Milne “seemed very old and disenchanted” with life. At the age of 74, the author died on Tuesday, 31 Jan. 1956 at his Hartfield farm.
In addition to Milne, other authors born on the 18 January include: