This week One Stop Poetry is proud to celebrate poet & author, A.A.Milne, whose birthday is this coming week.
Alan Alexander Milne was born in Kilburn, London on the 18th of January 1882. His father ran a small public school, Henley House. During his time, attending Henley House, one of his teachers was the renowned author H. G. Wells; Wells held a teaching post there for a short while. After finishing at Henley House, Milne went on to attend Westminster School & Trinity College, Cambridgeshire where he studied for a maths scholarship.
Whilst attending Trinity College, Milne was editor and writer for the student magazine, Granta. This led him to write more and before long he was writing for Punch Magazine. He became assistant editor, joining their staff in 1906.
In 1913, Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt. Before they had time to settle down and enjoy their new life together, he had to join the armed forces and fight, as an officer, in WWI. He was discharged in 1919. Milne’s only son, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920.
Milne’s literary career was diverse to say the least. As a playwright, he wrote over 30 plays. The most famous being the adaptation of Wind in the Willows, Toad of Toad Hall. As cinema was taking off, during this time, he also wrote 4 screenplays which were filmed in 1920. Milne wrote 7 novels, the best known was a detective story, The Red House Mystery, in 1922.
Milne reached literary brilliance in the four year period between1924 and 1928.
In 1924, he published his first collection of poems, When We Were Very Young, which was illustrated by friend and Punch cartoonist , E.H.Shepard.
This was followed, in 1925, by a collection of short stories, published under the title Gallery of Children. It was these stories & poems that paved the way for the legendary, Winnie - the - Pooh, published in 1926. In 1927, Milne published a series of nursery rhyme Now We Are Six. in 1928, the follow up, The House At Pooh Corner was published. The aforementioned, illustrated by E.H.Shepard.
“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.
The success of Winnie - the - Pooh was very much to Milne’s annoyance. Before he wrote it, he loved the freedom of switching genre & style, and being able to write about whatever he pleased. After the publication of the Pooh books, this changed. The audience for his more "grown up" work dwindled.
Although he was still wrote and published on a regular basis, he would never shake off the stigma of writing for children. His work, after this period, was never received in quite the same manner.
In 1952, Milne retired after a stroke and the resulting brain surgery rendered him an invalid. He lived for another four years this way and on the 31st of January 1956, aged 74, he passed away.
On his death, the rights to Winnie - the - Pooh were sold to Walt Disney, where that legacy continues to this very day. Every year, another child is enchanted by the stories of the “hunny” loving bear that lives in "One Hundred Aker Wood".
Milne’s poetry has been celebrated , parodied, and even set to music, but the poem I would like to leave you with today is one of great literary importance, The Teddy Bear, published in 1924. This is the very first appearance of Winnie - the - Pooh featured in the poetry collection, When We Were Very Young.