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by Bamber Gascoigne

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A(lan) A(lexander) Milne (1882-1956)


English writer, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne wrote many different kinds of books, humorous verses and light comedies as a staff member of Punch, and the detective novel The Red House Mystery (1922), which was severely criticized by Raymond Chandler. But Milne's most popular works are Winnie-the Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). In spite of his fame as a children's book writer, Milne was not "inordinately fond" of children.

"On Wednesday, when the sky is blue,
And I have nothing else to do,
I sometimes wonder if it's true
That who is what and what is who."

(from Winnie-the-Pooh)

Alan Alexander Milne was born in London. His father owned a private school at Mortiner Road, the Henley House. Among the teachers were, for some time, the science fiction writer H.G. Wells. A gifted mathematician, Milne won a scholarship to Westminster School when he was only eleven. He studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, and edited the undergraduate magazine Granta. After receiving his B.A. in 1903, he started his career as a freelance writer. Milne's essays and poems were published in the satirical magazine Punch and St. James' Gazette. In 1906 he joined the staff of Punch, becoming the magazine's assistant editor.

At H.G. Wells's suggestion Milne turned some of his sketches into a novel. His first book, Lovers in London, came out in 1905. His next books were collections of his Punch pieces. In the 1910s he became well known as a playwright, notably for Mr Pim Passes By (1919). In 1913 Milne married Dorothy de Sêlincourt – "She laughed at my jokes," he said later in his autobiography. Their only son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born in 1920. During World War I Milne served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a signals officer. He was posted to France briefly in 1916 and wrote propaganda for the Intelligence service. The horrors he witnessed in the war left him a lifelong nostalgia for the idyllic fantasies of childhood. "A 'children's book' must be written, not for children, but for the author himself," he once said. When the disillusioned post-war writers depicted the "lost generation" of the 1920s, Milne returned in his Pooh books into the safety of his early years.

After the war The Dover Road (1921) continued Milne's success. Toad of Toad Hall (1929), based on Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908), seems to have survived perhaps better than his original work. Milne's plays were produced in London and in Broadway and their popularity enabled him to buy in 1925 a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Sussex. Most of the time the family still spent in London, going down to Cotchford only at week-ends. There, in a small and dark room, with a window that looked over the courtyard, Milne wrote his works, smoking his pipe. And after dinner, he usually solved crosswords.

Milne's The Red House Mystery draws heavily on the tradition of Sherlock Holmes. Its lack of realistic details and cosy atmosphere prompted Raymond Chandler to write: "The detective in the case in an insouciant amateur named Anthony Gillingman, a nice lad with a cheery eye, a cosy little flat in London, and that airy manner... The English police seem to endure him with their customary stoicism; but I shudder to think of what the boys down at the Homicide Bureau in my city would do to him." (from 'The Simple Art of Murder') Milne's other mysteries include Four Days' Wonder (1933) and the drama The Fourth Wall, which was made into a film under the little The Perfect Alibi.

At the age of 42 Milne published When We Were Very Young, a collection of poetry for children. It was illustrated by his friend and colleague from Punch, E.H. Shepard, who was paid fifty pounds for the job. Winnie-the-Pooh. followed two years later. These hugely popular stories were set in Ashdown forest. They feature Milne's son Christopher (1920-1996) with various talking animals and animated versions of his toys – among them the famous teddy-bear, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and others. The stories were originally illustrated by E.H. Shepard. He traveled to Sussex, where the Milne family lived, visited the pine trees and other places, and Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals. The House at Pooh Corner (1928) continued the adventures of Pooh Bear and his friends. Later Pooh became an industry, producing toys, comics, and such films as Winnie-the-Pooh and the Honey Tree (1996) from Disney. Shepard illustrated books for nearly thirty years, among them Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

Winnie-the-Pooh has been the target of psychological analysis – noteworthy is the absence of Christopher Robin's mother. However, this is not a unique trait of the book. Walt Disney also left mothers (and fathers) out of the world of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Religious imagery is missing from the book, too. Milne kept his religious beliefs to himself, but recorded his thoughts in The Norman Church (1948). His son Christopher received a conventional religious education, but though he was given two Christian names, he was never christened, nor confirmed. Milne left him to develop his own religious beliefs.

Christopher Milne has later confessed that he had problems coping with the legendary literary figure created about him. He also said that his mother, Daphne, invented stories about toy animals and provided most of the material for his father's books. His relationship with his parents Christopher Milne analyzed in Enchanted Places (1975), in which he emphasized that his father did not feel sentimental about children. Noteworthy, Milne's famous poem 'Vespers' – beautifully sung by Vera Lynn – is actually about a little boy who is pretending to say his prayers. "... prayers means nothing to a child of three, whose thoughts are engaged with other, more exciting matters...", Milne wrote in 'Preface to Parents'. Dorothy Milne sent it originally to Vanity Fair in New York, where it was published in January 1923. Christopher Robin described 'Vespers' as "the one [work] that has brought me over the years more toe-curling, fist-clenching, lip-biting embarrassment than any other."

In the 1930s and 40s Milne was active in religious and pacifist polemics. He was certain that war would extinguish civilization. Milne recognized the threat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy but regarded preparations for defense as dangerous to peace as preparations for war. At the age of fifty-six he published his autobiography, It's Too Late Now (1938), which focused mostly on his childhood years. For the Pooh books he devoted eight "rather unhappy" pages, as Christopher Milne put it.

During WW II,  after P.G. Wodehouse made some light-hearted broadcasts from Germany for CBS radio shortly after being captured in 1940, Milne broke with his former friend and became his bitter opponent. "We were supposed to be quite good friends, but, you know, in a sort of way I think he was a pretty jealous chap", Wodehouse explained later in an interview. "I think he was probably jealous of all other writers." Milne gave up his pacifism for a period. Like many famous British authors, from H.G. Wells and Somerset Maugham to C.S. Forester, he was enlisted by the British Information Services (BIS) to do propaganda work. In Hartfield and Forest Row he served as a Captain of the Home Guard. Christopher Milne fought in the Middle East and Italy.

An operation on Milne's brain in 1952 left him an invalid during the last four years of his life. He died in Hartfield, Sussex, on January 31, 1956. After his wife's death in 1971, part of the fortune earned by the Pooh books came to the Royal Literary Fund, providing for writers in financial distress. When Winnie-the Pooh was first published in the United States, Milne wrote a tribute to his collaborator Ernest Shephard: "When I am gone / Let Shephard decorate my tomb, / And put (if there is room) / Two pictures on the stone; / Piglet from page a hundred and eleven / And Pooh and Piglet walking (157) . . . / And Peter, thinking that they are my own, / Will welcome me to heaven."

For further reading: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne (1974); A.A. Milne: A Critical Biography by Tori Haring-Smith (1982); Secret Gardens by H. Carpenter (1985); A.A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh by A. Thwaite (1990); A.A. Milne by J.C. Wheeler and R.A. Walner (1992); The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh by Ann Thwaite (1994); The Pooh Dictionary by A.R. Melrose (1995); The Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A. A. Milne by Jackie Wullschlager (1996); A. A. Milne: His Life by Ann Thwaite (2007) - Note: Rolling Stone guitarist Brian Jones was found dead on July 3, 1969 in his swimming pool at Cotchford Farms, the former home of A. A. Milne, and the setting of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  Other classic English children's fantasies: Lewis Carroll's Alice books, Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows,  Richard Adam's Watership DownOther translations into Finnish: Suomeksi on julkaistu myös Nalle Puh - kootut kertomukset ja runot (1997, Winnie-the-Pooh: the Complete Collection of Stories and Poems), joka sisältää Winnie-The-Pooh -teoksen lisäksi myös lorukirjat When We Were Very Young ja Now We Are Six. Muita suomennoksia: Kaniinin aamiainen (1987, The King's Breakfast); Nalle Puh seikkailee (1980, Winnie the Pooh - Walt Disney adaptation); Puhin jumppakirja (1991); Nalle Puhin mietekirja (1991, several rep., The Pooh Book of Quotations); Nalle Puhin päiväkirja (1991, Winnie the Pooh Journal)

Selected works:

  • Lovers in London, 1905
  • The Day's Play, 1910 (sketches and verse rptd from Punch)
  • The Holiday Round, 1912 (sketches rprd from Punch)
  • Once A Week, 1914 (sketches rprd from Punch)
  • Happy Days, 1915 (sketches rprd from Punch)
  • Once on a Time, 1917
  • Wurzel-Flummery: A Comedy in Two Acts, 1917
  • The Boy Comes Home: A Comedy in One Act, 1918
  • Make-Believe, 1918 (a children's play, lyrics by C.E. Burton)
  • Belinda: An April Folly in Three Acts, 1918
  • Mr. Pim Passes By: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1919
    - Films: Mr. Pim Passes By, 1921, dir. Albert Ward, starring Peggy Hyland, Campbell Gullan and Maudie Dunham; TV drama 1949, in Kraft Television Theatre, starring Valerie Cossart, Geoffrey Lumb and Rex O'Malley; TV drama 1952, in BBC Sunday-Night Theatre; TV drama 1957, in Matinee Theatre, starring Edward Everett Horton
  • The Camberley Triangle: A Comedy in One Act, 1919
  • Not That It Matters, 1919 (essays)
  • First Plays, 1919 (contains Wurzel-Flummery; The Lucky One; The Boy Comes Home; Belinda; The Red Feathers )
  • The Stepmother: A Play in One Act , 1920
  • The Romantic Age: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1920
    - TV drama 1950, in Kraft Television Theatre, starring Dean Harens and Bethel Leslie
  • The Red Feathers, 1920 (included in First Plays)
  • If I May, 1920
  • The Bump, 1920 (screenplay)
    - Film 1920, dir. Adrian Brunel, starring C. Aubrey Smith, Faith Celli and Douglas Marshall
  • Five Pound Reward, 1920 (screenplay)
    - Short film 1920, dir. Adrian Brunel, starring Leslie Howard, Barbara Hoffe and Sydney Lewis Ransome 
  • Bookworms, 1920 (screenplay)
    - Short film 1920, dir. Adrian Brunel, starring Leslie Howard, Pauline Johnson and Henrietta Watson
  • Mr. Pim, 1921 (based on the play; as Mr Pim Passes By, 1929)
  • The Sunny Side, 1921
  • Second Plays, 1921 (contains Make-Believe; Mr. Pim Passes By; The Camberley Triangle; The Romantic Age; The Stepmother)
  • The Great Broxopp: Four Chapters in Her Life, 1921 (produced in New York in 1921, in London at the St Martin's Theatre on March 6th, 1923)
    - TV drama 1950, in Kraft Television Theatre, starring Faith Brook, Rex O'Malley and Chet Stratton
  • The Truth about Blayds: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1921 (first performance December 20th at the Globe Theatre) - TV drama 1952, in Robert Montgomery Presents, starring Robert Montgomery, Romney Brent, Robert Cummings, Anna Lee
  • The Dover Road: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1921 (produced in New York in 1921, in London at the Theatre Royal on June 7th 1922)
    - Films: The Little Adventuress, 1927, dir. William C. de Mille, starring Vera Reynolds, Phyllis Haver and Robert Ober; Where Sinners Meet, 1934, dir. J. Walter Ruben, starring starring Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook and Billie Burke; TD drama 1955, in Kraft Television Theatre, starring  John Cromwell, Larry Gates and Leueen MacGrath
  • The Red House Mystery, 1922
    - Punaisen talon arvoitus (suom. Risto Hannula, 1973)
  • Three Plays, 1922 (includes The Dover Road; The Truth About Bladys; The Great Broxopp)
  • Berlud, Unlimited, 1922
  • The Lucky One, 1922 (included in First Plays, 1919 as Let's All Talk About Gerald)
  • Success, 1923 (first performance 21 June 1923; as Give Me Yesterday, 1931)
  • The Artist: A Duologue, 1923
  • The Man in the Bowler Hat: A Terribly Exciting Affair, 1924
  • To Have the Honour: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1924 (produced in London at the Wyndham's Theatre on April 24th, 1924, as To Meet the Prince)
  • When We Were Very Young, 1924 (verse)
  • Ariadne; or, Business First, 1924 (produced in New York and London, first performance on April 22nd at the Theatre Royal)
  • A Gallery of Children, 1925 (stories)
  • For the Luncheon Interval, 1925
  • King Hilary and the Beggarman, 1926
  • Four Plays, 1926 (contains To Have the Honour; Ariadne; Portrait of a Gentleman in Slippers; Success)
  • [Selected Works], 1926 (7 vols.; The Red House Mystery, the and collections of essays and sketches only)
  • Portrait of a Gentleman in Slippers: A Fairy Tale, 1926 (produced in Liverpool in 1926, in London 1927)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926
    - Several film adaptations including Winnie-the Pooh, TV series 1952, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, 1977, prod. Walt Disney Productions; Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, 1997, prod. Walt Disney Television Animation; The Book of Pooh, TV series 2000,  prod. Disney Channel, Shadow Projects; Piglet's Big Movie, 2003, prod. Walt Disney Pictures; Winnie the Pooh, 2011, prod. Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios 
    - Nalle Puh (suom. Anna Talaskivi, 1934; Kersti Juva, 1976)
  • Now We Are Six, 1927 (verse)
  • The Ivory Door: A Legend in a Prologue and Three Acts, 1927
  • Miss Marlow at Play: A One-Acts Comedy, 1927
    - TV drama 1953, in Lux Video Theatre, starring Binnie Barnes, Robert Coote, Isobel Elsom, Basil Rathbone
  • The House at Pooh Corner, 1928
    - Several film adaptations including Winnie-the Pooh, TV series 1952, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, 1977, prod. Walt Disney Productions; Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, 1997, prod. Walt Disney Television Animation; The Book of Pooh, TV series 2000,  prod. Disney Channel, Shadow Projects: Piglet's Big Movie, 2003, prod. Walt Disney Pictures; Winnie the Pooh, 2011, prod. Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios 
    - Nalle Puh rakentaa talon (suom. Annikki Saarikivi, 1949; Kersti Juva, 1977)
  • The Ascent of Man, 1928
  • Gentleman Unknown, 1928 (play)
  • Let's All Talk About Gerard, 1928 (play)
  • The Fourth Wall: A Detective Story in Three Acts, 1928 (first performed 29 February 1928; as The Perfect Alibi, 1929) - films: TV drama 1949, in Philco Television Playhouse, starring Bert Lytell, Frances Reid and D.A. Clarke-Smith; TV drama 1960, in The Chevy Mystery Show, starring Janet Blair and Vincent Price
  • Michael and Mary: A Play in Three Acts, 1929
    - Films: 1931, dir. Victor Saville, starring Herbert Marshall, Edna Best and Frank Lawton; TV drama 1949, in Theatre of Romance, dir. Robert Stevens, starring Jean Gillespie and Jack Manning; TV drama 1950, in Kraft Television Theatre, starring Peter Fernandez, Felicia Montealegre and John Newland; TV drama 1952, in Kraft Television Theatre, starring Maria Riva; TV drama 1952, in BBC Sunday-Night Theatre; TV drama 1956, in Lux Video Theatre, starring Maureen O'Sullivan; TV drama 1957, in Armchair Theatre, starring Dorothy Alison and Robert Urtquhart
  • By Way of Introduction, 1929 (prefaces, reviews and essays)
  • Toad of Toad Hall, 1929 (adaptation of the story The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, music by H. Fraser-Simson)
    - TV movie 1946, prod. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), starring Julia Braddock, Kenneth More and Jack Newmark
  • The Christopher Robin Story Book, 1929
  • The Secret and Other Stories, 1929
  • Those Were the Days, 1929
  • Michael and Mary, 1930
  • When I Was Very Young, 1930 (autobiography, illustrated by E.H. Shephard)
  • Birds of Prey (The Perfect Alibi), 1930 (screenplay)
    - Film 1930, dir. Basil Dean, starring Robert Loraine, Warwick Ward and Frank Lawton
  • Two People 1931
  • The Perfect Alibi, 1932
  • The Christopher Robin Verses, 1932
  • They Don't Mean Any Harm, 1932 (play: a.k.a. Other People's Lives)
  • Four Plays, 1932 (contains Michael and Mary; To Meet the Prince; The Perfect Alibu, Portrait of Gentleman in Slippers)
  • Four Days' Wonder, 1933
    - Film 1936, dir. Sidney Salkow, starring Jeanne Dante, Kenneth Howell and Martha Sleeper
  • Other People's Lives: A Play in Three Acts, 1933
  • A.A. Milne, 1933
  • Peace With Honour: An Enquiry into War Convention, 1934
  • More Plays, 1935 (contains The Ivory Door; The Fourth Wall, Other People's Lives)
  • Miss Elizabeth Bennet, 1936 (adaptation of the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, prod. 1938)
  • Sarah Simple: A Comedy in Three Acts, 1937
    - TV movie 1949, starring Georgina Cookson, William Fox, Joan Haythorne, Fulton Mackay, Frederick Piper, Janette Richer 
  • It's Too Late Now: The Autobiography of a Writer, 1938 (autobiography)
  • Behind the Lines, 1940 (verse)
  • War With Honour, 1940 (Macmillan War pamphlets)
  • War Aims Unlimited, 1941 (pamphlet)
  • The Ugly Duckling: A Play in One Act, 1941
    - Films: TV drama 1960, in General Electric Theatre, starring Oskar Homolka, Linda Watkins and Joanna Barnes; Ruma ankanpoikanen, in Teatterituokio, starring Pentti Viljanen, Rauha Rentola, Eira Jauckens, Martti Järvinen, Aarre Karén, Maija Karhi, Taneli Rinne   
  • One Year's Time, 1942
  • Chloe Marr, 1946
  • Going Abroad?, 1947 (pamphlet on travel)
  • The Norman Church, 1948
  • Books for Children, 1948
  • Birthday Party, and Other Stories, 1948
  • The Table Near the Band, and Other Stories, 1950 (contains A table near the band; The prettiest girl in the room; A man greatly beloved; The rise and fall of Mortimer Scrivens; Christmas party; The three dreams of Mr. Findlater; The river; Murder at eleven; A rattling good yarn; Portrait of Lydia; The Wibberly touch; Before the flood; The balcony)
    - Films: Portrait of Lydia, TV drama 1950, in Nash Airflyte Theatre, starring William Gaxton, Mary Beth Hughes and David Niven; Portrait of Lydia, TV drama 1954, in The Ford Television Theatre, starring Donna Reed, Nan Boardman, Jonathan Hale and Robert Horton; A Man Greatly Loved, TV drama 1957, in Alfred  Hitchcock  Presents, starring Cedric Hardwicke and Evelyn Rudie;  The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater, TV drama 1957, in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, starring John Williams and Barbara Baxley
  • Before the Flood: A Play in One Act, 1951
  • Year In, Year Out, 1952 (monthly calendar of reminiscences, sketches and essays, illustrated by E.H. Shepard)
  • The King's Breakfast, 1953
    - Kuninkaan aamiainen: A. A. Milnen kauneimpia runoja (suom. Eila Kivikk’aho, 1987)
  • Prince Rabbit and The Princess Who Could Not Laugh, 1966
  • Christopher Robin's Book, 1969 (ed.  Rosemary Garland)
    - Risto Reippaan kirja (2. p., suom. Leena Sneck)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, 1973 (special edition,  illustrated by E. H. Shepard)
  • The World of Christopher Robin, 1988 (illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems, 1994 (illustrated by E.H. Shepard)
    - Nalle Puh: kootut kertomukset ja runot (suom. 1997)

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