On this day in 1882, English author Alan Alexander Milne is born in Kilburn, London, UK, to his schoolmaster father and devoted mother. Best known for his works featuring the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and noteworthy plays, Milne’s education at his father’s public school included instruction from, among others, futurist HG Wells.
Milne went on to attend Westminster School, London, and Trinity College, Cambridge, the latter on a mathematics scholarship. While at Cambridge, he edited and wrote for Granta magazine. He took a degree in mathematics in 1903 and thereafter moved to London to make a living as a freelance writer.
In 1906 Milne joined the staff of Punch, where he worked until 1914, writing humorous verse and whimsical essays. He was married in 1913, and in 1915, though a pacifist, Milne enlisted in the British Army in WW1, serving as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the Royal Corps of Signals. He was commissioned into the 4th Battalion, and was injured while serving in the Battle of the Somme. Recuperating in England, he was recruited into Military Intelligence to write propaganda articles for MI7 between 1916 and 1918. During WW2, Milne was a Captain of the Home Guard while in his 60’s.
Mustering out of the BEF in 1919, when Milne was not rehired by Punch, he turned his attention to playwriting. He achieved considerable success with a series of light comedies, including Mr. Pim Passes By (1921), and Michael and Mary (1930). Milne also wrote one memorable detective novel, The Red House Mystery (1922), and a children’s play, Make-Believe (1918), before stumbling upon his true literary métier with some verses written for his son, Christopher Robin. These grew into the collections When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927), and remain classics of light verse for children.
Though his body of work largely enjoys critical praise, it is overshadowed by his creation of Pooh, Christopher Robin and the various lovable creatures of the 100-acre wood. Today in fact marks national Winnie the Pooh Day in the UK and Canada, and reminds us of Milne’s most valuable words which should remain close at hand for each and all of us: “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”