Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander), 1882-1956

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1882-01-18
Death 1956-01-31
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

Alan Alexander Milne (b. January 18, 1882, London, England-d. January 31, 1956, Hartfield, England) was born to John Vine Milne, the headmaster of Henley House School, and Sarah Maria Heginbotham Milne. Known best for his children’s stories, Milne was also a prolific essayist, playwright, and mystery writer.

As a child, Milne attended his father’s school, where H. G. Wells was one of his instructors. Beginning at age eleven, Milne attended Westminster School and later entered Trinity College, Cambridge University, where he graduated with honors in 1903 with a B. A. in mathematics.

Milne began his writing career as an assistant editor and contributor to the humor magazine Punch. His early essays often dealt with humorous twists to everyday situations, such as a bumbling man attempting to use an exercise machine. In 1913, Milne married Dorothy de Sélincourt, known as Daphne, and in 1914, joined the British Army at the onset of World War I.

While in the army, Milne wrote plays for his fellow soldiers and following his discharge in 1918, he endeavored to become a professional playwright. Success did not take long and he gained both critical acclaim and financial security with his 1919 play Mr. Pim Passes By . The following year, Milne’s only child, Christopher Robin Milne, was born.

In 1922, Milne wrote his first mystery novel, The Red House Mystery, in which he used his stated strategy for success: use everyday language, make the detective an amateur, include a “Dr. Watson” so that the reader can know what the protagonist is thinking, and minimize romantic interest. Of previous mystery novels, Milne said, “I had read most of those which had been written, admired their ingenuity, but didn’t like their English.... I wondered if I could write a detective story about real people in real English. I thought it would be ‘fun to try,’ my only reason for writing anything.”

Milne’s next genre became his most memorable: children’s literature. When We Were Very Young, a collection of poems for children, was published in 1924, and included for the first time one of Milne’s most famous characters, Christopher Robin, named after his son. This was followed by a collection of poetry, Now We Are Six (1927), and two books about his son’s stuffed toys, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928).

The Pooh books and his collections of children’s poetry soon became Milne’s most popular works, but Milne came to resent his success as a children’s author, wondering in 1928 how he found success in writing “four children’s books, containing altogether 70,000 words--the number of words in the average-length novel.”

Milne’s later works include an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows titled Toad of Toad Hall (1930), and essays on war and pacifism. In his book Peace with Honour (1934), Milne wrote that Europe’s problems could be solved by politicians realizing the absurdity of war. But, with the outbreak of World War II, Milne renounced his previous position, publishing War with Honour (1940) and War Aims Unlimited (1941).

Year In, Year Out (1952), a collection of essays ranging in tone and topic from philosophical to whimsical, was Milne’s final published work. In 1952 he suffered a stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He died on January 31, 1956, at his home in Sussex.

From the guide to the A. A. (Alan Alexander) Milne Collection, 1886-1961, undated (bulk circa 1920-1952), (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)

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Subjects:

  • English drama
  • English fiction--20th century
  • Children's stories
  • Authors, English--20th century
  • Authors, English
  • Drama
  • Essays
  • Children's literature, English
  • Prompt-book
  • World War, 1939-1945--Moral and ethical aspects
  • Illustrated books
  • Children's poetry
  • Authors, English--20th century--Correspondence
  • Poetry
  • Literary agents
  • Literary agents--England
  • English drama--20th century
  • Fiction

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Authors, English
  • Novelists
  • Dramatists
  • Dramatists, English
  • Poets
  • Essayist

Places:

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 00, GB
  • England, ENG, GB
  • London, ENG, GB
  • Hartfield, , UK