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Alan Alexander Milne was born in Hampstead on 18th January 1882. His father was headteacher of Henley House School. One of his teachers was H. G. Wells who taught at the school between 1889-1890.
After leaving Henley House he attended Westminster School. A talented mathematician he won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. While at university Milne edited the student magazine Granta. After leaving university he worked as a freelance writer until being appointed assistant editor of Punch Magazine in 1906. A collection of his magazine articles, The Day's Play, was published in 1910.
Milne was a pacifist but on the outbreak of the First World War he responded to the call by Lord Kitchener to join the British Army. Milne was offered a commission by the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in February 1915. After enduring basic training on the Isle of Wight he attended a course at Weymouth to become a signalling officer.
Second Lieutenant Milne was sent to the Western Front during the Somme Offensive. Soon after arriving on the front-line his best friend, Ernest Pusch, was killed: "just as he was settling down to his tea, a shell came over and blew him to pieces." His brother, Frederick Pusch, had been killed by a German sniper a few days later.
On 10th August 1916, Milne and four other men were sent out to run out telephone cable so that during forthcoming attack communications with battalion and brigade headquarters could be maintained. During the operation, the senior Signalling Officer, Kenneth Harrison, suffered a serious head wound from a shell splinter. Milne now took over from Harrison and the following night he laid another telephone line. As he later recalled: "elaborately laddered according to the text books, and guaranteed to withstand any bombardment".
The Commanding Officer of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Collison, admitted that the results of the preliminary bombardment: "Not only would it render the trench uninhabitable to our men, should they succeed in taking it, but it was plain intimation to the Hun that we contemplated some action against him in the near future."
On 12th August 1916, Milne's infantry platoon left the front-line trenches. The men made their attack behind a barrage that lifted as they went forward. Immediately they came under intense German machine gun fire. None of Milne's men got to within twenty yards (18.2m) of the German trench. The battalion lost around sixty killed, and just over a hundred wounded. Of the five officers who led the attack, three were killed and two severely wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Collison wrote a report that claimed his men had died bravely: "I may mention that I saw no man lying otherwise than with his face to the enemy." Milne interpreted these events differently and later claimed that this attack changed his view of the war: "It makes me almost physically sick of that nightmare of mental and moral degradation."
In November 1916 Milne was moved to the much quieter trenches near Loos. However he contacted trench fever and he was evacuated to England. After his recovery he taught at a newly-established signalling school.
After the war Milne returned to Punch Magazine but his spent his spare time writing plays. The birth of his son, Christopher Robin, resulted in him writing some poems and stories for children. In 1924 he published a book of children's poems, When We were Very Young, that were illustrated by E. H. Shepard. The book included the first appearance of Winnie the Pooh.
In 1925 he bought Cotchford Farm in Hartfield. He was encouraged to write more children's stories and Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926. It was a great success and it was followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928. These stories took place in Posingford Wood close to Milne's home. Milne contined to write plays and novels but they failed to make him any money, unlike his children stories. Claire Tomalin has pointed out that "his fame as a children's writer made it increasingly difficult for him to interest public, critics or publishers in the other, more serious work."
In 1934 Milne published Peace With Honour about his experiences of the First World War. This was followed by It's Too Late Now: The Autobiography of a Writer (1939).
Milne served as a Captain of the Home Guard in Hartfield and Forest Row during the Second World War. However, his health was not good and in 1952 he suffered a stroke that left him as an invalid.
Alan Alexander Milne died at Cotchford Farm on 31st January 1956.
We sat there completely isolated. The depth of the dugout deadened the noise of the guns, so that a shell-burst was no longer the noise of a giant plumber throwing down his tools, but only a persistent thud, which set the candles dancing and then, as if by an afterthought, blotted them out. From time to time I lit them again, wondering what I should be doing, wondering what signalling officers did on these occasions. Nervously I said to the Colonel, feeling that the isolation was all my fault, `Should I try to get a line out?' and to my intense relief he said, "Don't be a bloody fool."
We passed one of the signal stations, no longer a station but a pancake of earth on top of a spread-eagled body; I had left him there that evening, saying, "Well, you'll be comfortable here." More rushes, more breathers, more bodies, we were in the front line. The Major hurried off to collect what men he could, while I joined up the telephone. Hopeless, of course, but we could have done no more.
Ernest Pusch wore an under-garment of chain mail... such as had been worn in the Middle Ages to guard against unfriendly daggers, and was now sold to over-loving mothers as likely to turn a bayonet-thrust or keep off a stray fragment of shell; as I suppose, it might have done.... Anyway it didn't matter; for on the evening when we first came within reach of the battle-zone, just as he was settling down to his tea, a shell came over and blew him to pieces.
As a specialist officer I was, I thanked heaven, independent again. Nobody in the battalion could tell me anything about signalling; I was excused - or excused myself, it was never clear which - orderly officer's duty; never saw my company commander from one week to another; and having the whole battalion behind me on route marches could almost imagine that I was taking a brisk country walk in civilian knickerbockers.
Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear and Pooh, is a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne and English illustrator E. H. Shepard.
The first collection of stories about the character was the book Winnie-the-Pooh (1926), and this was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also included a poem about the bear in the children's verse book When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). All four volumes were illustrated by E. H. Shepard.
The Pooh stories have been translated into many languages, including Alexander Lenard's Latin translation, Winnie ille Pu, which was first published in 1958, and, in 1960, became the only Latin book ever to have been featured on The New York Times Best Seller list. 
In 1961, Walt Disney Productions licensed certain film and other rights of Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories from the estate of A. A. Milne and the licensing agent Stephen Slesinger, Inc., and adapted the Pooh stories, using the unhyphenated name "Winnie the Pooh", into a series of features that would eventually become one of its most successful franchises.
In popular film adaptations, Pooh has been voiced by actors Sterling Holloway, Hal Smith, and Jim Cummings in English, and Yevgeny Leonov in Russian.
Time to Grow Up
After ending the Winnie the Pooh series, people were not nearly as interested in anything else A.A. Milne had to write. He tried to go back to writing plays, since they were once his bread and butter. Unfortunately, critics called his main character &ldquoChristopher Robin all grown up&rdquo, and everything was always compared to Winnie the Pooh. He wrote other books for adults, but none of them ever even got close to the fame of his children&rsquos characters. This made him feel as though people truly knew and loved his son, rather than his writing.
The illustrator, E.H. Shepherd, also had a rough time with his career after the books came out. His real career was being a political cartoonist for Punch Magazine, and he never planned on working in children&rsquos literature. He wanted his legacy to be about his witty humor in political commentary, not for something in a children&rsquos book. Whenever anyone talked about Winnie the Pooh, he called him a &ldquosilly old bear&rdquo. Even after he died, all of his sketches were auctioned off. Everything that was involved in Christopher Robin or Winnie the Pooh was sold for huge amounts of money, but his political cartoons sold for much less.
When Christopher Robin grew up, he went to Cambridge University, and he served in World War II. When he began applying for a full-time job, every single interview ended up turning into a conversation about Winnie the Pooh. This sickened Christopher, and he just wanted to be a normal person who was judged for their own accomplishments, and not pre-judged based on a fictional version of his childhood self. He resented this so strongly, he refused to take any of the money that the books made.
At 27, Christopher Robin met a young woman named Lesley de Selincourt, who just so happened to be his first cousin. Since his mother was estranged from her family, he never met that side of the family before. So, meeting Lesley was like meeting a stranger, and they fell madly in love with one another. After they got married, his mother Daphne was very vocal about how unhappy she was about their relationship, and she could only talk about all of the reasons why she hated her family. This made Christopher Robin&rsquos relationship with his mom even worse than it was before, and when his father died, he completely stopped talking to her.
Christopher and Lesley opened up a bookstore, and they lived happily on their modest income. Tragically, their first and only child, Clare, was born with cerebral palsy. She was wheelchair-bound for her entire life, and unable to take care of herself. Even though he did not want any of the money for himself, Christopher had to accept money from the Winnie the Pooh estate to pay for his daughter&rsquos medical expenses.
Christopher Robin&rsquos original stuffed animal collection is on display in the New York Library. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Walt Disney first bought the rights to distribute the stories from the Milne estate in the 1960s, and they began to come out with the cartoons. The estate received royalties twice a year, and Christopher made sure all of that money went to pay for Clare&rsquos medical treatment. In 2001, Disney officially purchased Winnie the Pooh for $350 million. The money was divided amongst the Royal Literary Society, and The Garrick Club in London, and Clare. Today, Disney makes $2 Billion from selling Winnie the Pooh merchandise every single year.
Today, thousands of people still visit Christopher Robin&rsquos real stuffed animals at the New York Library and explore the Five Hundred Acre Wood, where a large plaque commemorates the memory of Winnie the Pooh.
23. Time for Something Sweet
The real Winnie bear had an appetite for sugary foods, preferring condensed milk over raw meat. True to reality, Pooh bear also has a sweet tooth but craves honey instead. In Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, he even scales a tree to get his paws on the liquid gold, fresh from the hive. After all, “anytime is food time / When you set your clock on Pooh time.”
The Secret Jewish History of Winnie-The-Pooh
A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories have delighted youngsters for over 90 years, as have their numerous spinoffs as TV shows, cartoons, holiday specials, movies and, of course, branded merchandise, all of which made Milne very wealthy.
But the story behind the story of how Milne created the complex children’s tale and characters based on his son, Christopher Robin, and his collection of stuffed animals isn’t such a happy one. Which is presumably why it has been deemed perfect fodder for a feature film, “Goodbye, Christopher Robin,” that recounts the miraculous success of Milne’s stories, precisely timed to capture the imagination of a nation brutalized by the horrors of the World War I, as well as the steep emotional price that Milne, his wife, Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt Milne, and their only child, Christopher Robin, paid for that success.
For Milne himself, a serious novelist, playwright and poet, Pooh became a Golem-like monster that would come back to haunt him, overshadowing all his literary pursuits, before and after the publication of “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926. For Christopher Robin, he would be subject to teasing and harassment from an early age, with everyone assuming he was just like the fictional character that bore his name, even though he was not. He blamed both his parents for his exploitation, and lived most of his life estranged from them.
In what reads like a passage right out of a Philip Roth novel, Christopher Robin Milne once wrote, “In pessimistic moments, when I was trudging London in search of an employer wanting to make use of such talents as I could offer, it seemed to me, almost, that my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and had left me with nothing but the empty fame of being his son.”
Milne himself came down on the right side of history where the national defense was concerned. After serving on the front in Europe, Milne joined MI7b, a little-known British military intelligence unit consisting in large part of established authors who wrote propaganda about British heroism and German atrocities. When war against the Germans came around a second time, Milne spoke out loudly against his erstwhile friend, the author P.G. Wodehouse, for making pro-German radio broadcasts from Berlin. Wodehouse pointedly replied, however, by accusing Milne of child exploitation. Ouch.
Still, however Milne felt about the bear, and however his son felt about being unable to escape the character’s fictional clutches, Winnie-the-Pooh gained a life far beyond his creator’s control or imagination.
Part of that imagination has extended to finding – or even placing – Jewish themes and messages in the stories of Pooh. Pooh himself, of course, loves honey – that quintessential Jewish food (not for nothing is the Promised Land called “the land of milk and honey”) – to the point that his obsession with it gets him into some sticky messes. Saul Blinkoff, who animated the 2004 full-length cartoon version of Pooh for Disney, went so far as to add a mezuza to Pooh’s doorpost.
It hasn’t been lost on many that Pooh’s sidekick, Eeyore, has a comic, neurotic outlook worthy of Larry David:
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he. “Why, what’s the matter?” “Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.” “Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose. “Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”
Fetch this donkey a good therapist!
A 2016 feature article in Moment magazine asked 20 authors – Jewish and non-Jewish – to name the book that most shaped them. Among the picks you’d expect – Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” Primo Levi’s “The Periodic Table,” Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” – one stood out from the pack. Walter Mosley chose “Winnie-the-Pooh” as the book that most shaped him:
“Jews should read ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ just like everyone should. Jews think and need the exact same things other people do. Jews think, ‘I’m hungry, I’m tired, I’m in love, I have a job to go to, my back hurts, and I’m getting older’ — all of that stuff is common to everyone. Ninety-nine percent of who we are is the same. Jews should be interested in these books for the same reasons as everyone else. And there is no conflict I’m not saying people should eat Piglet!”
Perhaps the final proof of Pooh’s universal message is what may just be the perennial best-selling children’s book in Yiddish since its publication in 2000. Leonard Wolf had little trouble translating the original book into “Vini-der-Pu,” in which Pooh became Pu, Eeyore became Iya, and — your favorite and mine — Piglet became Khazerl.
And you didn’t have to be an expert to translate Pooh’s catchphrase, “Oh, bother,” which verily leaps off the page as “Oy, gevalt,” as if Milne had actually back-translated the phrase into English.
Seth Rogovoy is a contributing editor at the Forward. He often explores the correspondences between popular culture and Jewish themes.
Milne, William (1785-1822)
Raised in rural Scotland, Milne became a carpenter. In 1809, at age 24, he was accepted by the London Missionary Society and given three years’ theological training at their college in Gosport, England, before his ordination in 1812. He and his new wife, Rachel (Cowie) Milne, arrived on the China coast in 1813, joining Morrison, who had arrived there in 1807. In the next nine years, Milne learned the Chinese language and lived in Canton, Java, Penang, and Malacca. Even more than Morrison (who stayed in Canton), Milne was a cultural pioneer in this network of China-oriented posts ranging from the China coast to Souteast Asia. He translated the books Deuteronomy through Job for Morrison’s famous Bible, and in his own right made a signal contribution to the beginnings of the writing, printing, and distribution of Christian literature in Chinese. In 1819 he published a tract The Two Friends, which became the most widely used Chinese Christian tract until the early twentieth century. Milne was also principal of the Ango-Chinese College at Malacca, from its founding until his death. His first convert (1815), Liang Fa, later became renowned as the author of the Christian literature that inspired Hung Hsiu-ch’üan and the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).
Milne was remarkably prolific for one who came to literary work so late in life, and twenty-one Chinese works are attributed to him. Several were of substantial length one was a monthly magazine that ran from 1815 to 1822 and totaled several hundred pages. In addition, he produced two substantial books and a Malacca periodical in English. Predecesased by his wife in 1819, he was survived by a daughter and three sons, one of whom, William Charles Milne (1815-1863), later became an LMS missionary (1839-1863).
Daniel H. Bays, “Milne, William,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 461-62.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Milne, William. A Retrospect of the First Ten Years of the Protestant Mission to China: (Now, in Connection with the Malay, Denominated the Ultra-Ganges Missions) Accompanied with Miscellaneous Remarks on the Literature, History, and Mythology of China &C. Malacca: Printed at the Anglo-Chinese Press, 1820.
Bays, Daniel H. “Christian Tracts: The Two Friends,” in Suzanne Wilson Barnett and John King Fairbank, eds., Christianity in China: Early Protestant Missionary Writings. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies/Harvard University, 1985.
Harrison, Brian. Waiting for China: The Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca, 1818-1843, and Early Nineteenth Century Missions. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1979.
A. A. Milne
Alan Alexander Milne (18 January 1882 – 31 January 1956), known as A.A. Milne, was an English author, best known for his books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various children's poems. Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work.
He was born in Hampstead, London, son of John Vince Milne, who was Scottish, and Sarah Marie Milne (nພ Heginbotham). He attended Henley House School, 6/7 Mortimer Road (now Crescent), Kilburn, a small public school run by his father. One of his teachers was H. G. Wells, who taught there in 1889.
Milne attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied on a mathematics scholarship, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1903. While there, he edited and wrote for Granta, a student magazine. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth and their articles appeared over the initials AKM.
Milne's work came to the attention of the British magazine Punch, where Milne became a contributor and later an assistant editor.
Milne played for the amateur English cricket team the Allahakbarries alongside authors J. M. Barrie and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and later, after a debilitating illness, the Royal Corps of Signals. He was commissioned into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 17 February 1915 as a second lieutenant (on probation). His commission was confirmed on 20 December 1915. On 7 July 1916, he was injured while serving in the Battle of the Somme and invalided back to England. Having recuperated, he was recruited into Military Intelligence to write propaganda articles for MI 7b between 1916 and 1918. He was discharged on 14 February 1919 and settled in Chelsea.
Milne married Dorothy "Daphne" de Sélincourt in 1913. They were expecting a baby girl in 1920, when the baby was born a boy, he was named two names Christopher Robin Milne. In 1925, A. A. Milne bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex.
During World War II, A. A. Milne was Captain of the British Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row, insisting on being plain "Mr. Milne" to the members of his platoon. He retired to the farm after a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 left him an invalid. Milne died in January 1956, aged 74
The Tragic True Origin Story of Winnie the Pooh
Winnie the Pooh and his best friend Christopher Robin are two characters that are known and loved all over the world. They have appeared in books, poems, cartoons, and movies, and have been translated into dozens of languages. But few people in modern times know that Christopher Robin and Pooh were both very real, and the children&rsquos stories are loosely based on reality. However, the true story of what went into the making of Winnie the Pooh is much darker than most people could imagine. What started out as a story of childhood innocence turned into a media machine that was out of control. This is a story of a lonely little boy who became a child star, and the adults whose careers could never quite match the expectations that Winnie the Pooh places on them.
A.A. Milne with Christopher and Winnie Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Alan Alexander Milne, or A.A. Milne for short, was, an editor and writer for London&rsquos Punch magazine. He specialized in comedic political commentary. He was also an acclaimed playwright. Audiences loved his clever wit, and he made a name for himself in the industry. He married a socialite named Dorothy de SÃ©lincourt, or &ldquoDaphne&rdquo for short. She was estranged from her extended family, and focused instead on the joys of living among the London upper-class- going to parties, re-decorating her home, and so on. The Milnes enjoyed having a marriage where they acted like they were still single. They each spent time with their own friends, and they would go on dates to parties and to see the newest London plays. Milne would go to The Garrick Club in London to grab a drink and spend time with his buddies. All was well in the world, until A.A. Milne was drafted into World War I.
When he returned, he was traumatized by what he saw in the war. When the war ended in 1918, he wanted to write about his thoughts and feelings against war in general, but no one was interested in reading about it. They wanted to move on from the sadness and loss, and the public wanted more comedy, so he continued to write his jokes and plays. In 1920, the Milnes gave birth to their son, Christopher Robin, but they decided to call him &ldquoBilly&rdquo, because they had disagreed on a name, and decided it was easier to just call him a nickname. As a young child, he did not know how to pronounce &ldquoMilne&rdquo, and instead said, &ldquoMoon&rdquo. So, they called him &ldquoBilly Moon&rdquo, instead of his real name, Christopher Robin. One of his first gifts was a teddy bear that Daphne named &ldquoEdward&rdquo, and the boy grew up with it as his companion.
Christopher Robin feeding honey to the real &ldquoWinnie&rdquo bear at the London Zoo. Credit: CBC.
Even after having Christopher, the Milnes wanted to go back to the lifestyle they enjoyed before, so they hired a nanny, Olive Rand, to raise their son. They also hired cooks and maids to do all of the house work for them, so there was very little they had to do as parents. In his autobiography, Christopher wrote that his parents never decided to have family outings when the three of them spent time together. If he spent time with his parents, it was always separate. It was during one of these outings to the London zoo with his mother when he first saw a real-live bear from Canada, named Winnipeg. After that day, Christopher decided to call his bear &ldquoWinnie&rdquo.
How Winnie-the-Pooh Got His Name
A.A. Milne&rsquos books&mdashincluding the simply titled Winnie-the-Pooh, which was published on this day in 1926&mdashmade Winnie the bear and his animal friends world famous, but they were not only the product of Milne&rsquos imagination. The author, along with illustrator Ernest H. Shepard, actually based his work on some very real stuffed animals&mdashthose of Milne&rsquos son, Christopher Robin Milne.
Although the book was published 89 years ago Wednesday, the beloved character got his start five years before, when Milne gave his son a toy bear for his first birthday on Aug. 21, 1921. But that bear wasn’t named Winnie: he was initially called Edward. The name Winnie came later, from a brown bear that young Christopher Robin Milne visited in the London Zoo. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian lieutenant and veterinary surgeon, had brought the bear cub to England at the beginning of World War I and named her for the city of Winnipeg, leaving her at the London Zoo when his unit left for France. Milne&rsquos introduction to his 1924 book When We Were Very Young traces the origin of the second half of the name to a swan: &ldquoChristopher Robin, who feeds this swan in the mornings, has given him the name of ‘Pooh.’ This is a very fine name for a swan, because, if you call him and he doesn’t come (which is a thing swans are good at), then you can pretend that you were just saying ‘Pooh!’ to show him how little you wanted him.&rdquo
But while only Rabbit and Owl were products of the author and artist&rsquos imaginations, not all of the illustrations are actually of Christopher Robin&rsquos toys. Indeed, because Shepard drew the bear for When We Were Very Young, Pooh himself was not based on Christopher Robin Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, but on Shepard&rsquos son&rsquos teddy bear, named Growler. Milne insisted Shepard draw the rest of the characters for Winnie-the-Pooh from Christopher Robin&rsquos toys, but Pooh remained based on Growler.
Unlike Growler, who was eventually destroyed by a dog, and Roo, who went missing in an apple orchard in the 1930s, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga are still around today, and have been on display together at the New York Public Library since 1987.
Read more about Christopher Robin Milne and his childhood toys, here in the TIME Vault: Bear Essentials
The Sad Story of A.A. Milne and the Real-Life Christopher Robin
The film Goodbye, Christopher Robin tells the story of how A.A. Milne’s popular children’s stories damaged his son, the real-life Christopher Robin.
The film Goodbye Christopher Robin aims to tell the behind-the-scenes story of A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin. You know the one: the adorable shaggy-haired child wandering through the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and Milne’s sweet poems. Or perhaps you know the Disneyfied cartoon version, a lankier, more knowing boy. There he was, playing pretend along with you throughout your childhood. But where did he come from?
Back in 1932, not long after Milne’s books of children’s poetry When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six were first published, Mary Ethel Nesmith wrote for The Elementary English Review, praising Milne’s “perfect understanding of child life.” According to Nesmith, Milne “seems to divine the very thoughts and language of the child.” She notes that the verses have been written for and about Milne’s son, the real-life Christoper Robin, and that the child’s presence throughout the poems adds charm and authenticity. The article also quotes Milne himself on writing for children. He says that when writing for children one must give the very best he has to give,
but whatever fears one has one need not fear that one is writing too well for a child any more than one need fear that one is becoming almost too lovable. It is difficult enough to express oneself with all the words in the dictionary at one’s disposal with not but simple words, the difficulty is much greater. We need not spare ourselves.
Indeed Nesmith claims his children’s poems “make you reach up a little and learn to enjoy the beautiful”—perhaps the noblest goal of any kind of art. And yet, by all accounts Milne was not entirely pleased that children’s books overshadowed all his other work. Twenty years after Nesmith’s article, Milne wrote these lines:
If a writer, why not write
On whatever comes in sight?
So—the Children’s Books: 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.
As John R. Payne notes, Milne was indeed known as a journalist and “one of England’s successful post-War dramatists” before a children’s magazine asked him for a contribution in 1923 and he submitted a few poems, “unknowingly on his way to becoming famous as a writer for children.” He continued to write plays, but it was the poems and stories for children that hit. Payne writes, “He hated being referred to as ‘whimsical’ and resented being remembered primarily for his light verse.” And while he must have been grateful for the remunerative success of the “four trifles,” clearly the huge popularity of Winnie-the-Pooh and the fictional alter-ego of Christopher Robin complicated life for not A.A.’s literary legacy, but for the entire Milne family, as the new film reveals.
To wit, the real-life Christopher Robin did not love being made into one of England’s most beloved fictional characters. Seeking a refuge from the horrors experienced as a soldier in WWI, A.A. Milne “created the world of Pooh—only to watch as his books’ astonishing popularity threatened to bring an end to his son’s idyllic childhood,” writes a reviewer in the Seattle Times. The stuffed-animal play in the sun-dappled countryside and the stories they inspired provided Milne with a salve for his PTSD. As Richard Roeper writes for the Chicago Sun Times, “But things get nasty again when ‘Winnie the Pooh’ becomes a global sensation, and the world demands to meet ‘the real Christopher Robin,’ and both A.A. and his wife trot their boy around as a prop, oblivious to how much harm they’re inflicting.”
The real Christopher Robin worked hard to distance himself from his fictionalized self, refusing to take any of the royalties made off his likeness, and apparently never really forgiving his parents. Milne was forever remembered as a “whimsical” writer of children’s stories—and now, as the inadvertent destroyer of his son’s childhood. A bother indeed!