Five Fascinating Facts About… A.A. Milne

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Written by Simon Thomas

A.A. Milne with Christopher Robin

1.) A.A. Milne had a famous schoolteacher. A.A. Milne’s father John ran a small boys’ school, Henley House, and one of the teachers he employed was a young H.G. Wells. Wells was a few years away from publishing his first novel, The Time Machine, when he had a post at Henley House 1889-90 and taught Milne mathematics. It obviously rubbed off, as that was the subject Milne read at Cambridge.

2.) He wrote a very prescient play about Christopher Robin. Almost. Before the success of Winnie the Pooh et al, and indeed before Christopher Robin was born, Milne was a very successful playwright. One of his early plays was The Great Broxopp, about the resentment a child felt against the father who had used his name and image in a popular advertisement… the same resentment Christopher Milne would later feel about being Christopher Robin.

The original toys at the New York Public Library. Taken with permission © A.Gaskell 2000

3.) He was famous for his pacifism. Despite – or because of – fighting in WW1, Milne was a noted pacifist in the 1930s, and Peace With Honour was widely read in 1934. However, it was followed up in 1940 by War With Honour: ‘If anyone reads Peace With Honour now, he must read it with that one word HITLER scrawled across every page.’

4.) He had a couple of literary feuds. He led the charge against P.G. Wodehouse and his ‘Berlin Broadcasts’ (Wodehouse would later comment ‘Nobody could be more anxious than myself that Alan Alexander Milne should trip over a loose boot-lace and break his neck’, while adding that he still loved Milne’s writing.) He also fell out with Dorothy Parker, who finished her review of The House at Pooh Corner saying ‘Tonstant Weader fwowed up’. Twenty years later, Milne quoted the review in his autobiography, adding ‘[sic, if I may]’.

5.) He unknowingly caused a Latin bestseller. Alexander Lennard’s translation of Winnie-the-Pooh – Winnie ille Pu – was published in 1958, two years after Milne’s death, and in 1960 became the only work in Latin ever to appear in the New York Times’ bestseller list. Not bad for a bear of very little brain.

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Simon is one of the Shiny Editors.

Read also, our reviews of Ann Thwaite’s A.A. Milne: His Life and Christopher Milne’s The Path Through The Trees.