Christopher Robin Milne
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|Christopher Robin Milne|
Young Milne with Bear
21 August 1920|
Chelsea, London, England
|Died||20 April 1996
Totnes, Devon, England
|Spouse(s)||Lesley de Sélincourt (1948–1996; his death)|
|Parent(s)||A. A. Milne
Dorothy de Sélincourt
Christopher Robin Milne (21 August 1920 – 20 April 1996) was the son of author A. A. Milne. As a child, he was the basis of the character Christopher Robin in his father's Winnie-the-Pooh stories and in two books of poems.
Christopher Robin Milne was born at 11 Mallord St, Chelsea, London at 8 A.M. to author Alan Alexander Milne and Dorothy Milne (née de Sélincourt). His parents had expected the baby to be a girl, and had chosen the name Rosemary. When it turned out to be a boy, they initially intended to call him Billy, but decided that would be too informal. They gave him two first names to help distinguish him from other Milnes; each parent chose a name. Although he was officially named Christopher Robin, his parents often referred to him as "Billy". When he began to talk, he pronounced his surname as Moon instead of Milne. After that, his family would often call him "Billy", "Moon", or "Billy Moon". In later life, he became known as simply "Christopher".
On his first birthday, he received an Alpha Farnell teddy bear he called Edward. This bear, along with a real Canadian bear named "Winnie" that Milne saw at the London Zoo, eventually became the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh character. The teddy bear was about two feet tall, light in colour, frequently lost its eyes, and was a fairly constant companion to Milne.
As was customary for upper-class and upper-middle-class children at the time, Milne was reared by a nanny – Olive Brockwell. Meetings with his parents were restricted to short periods just after breakfast, at tea time, and in the evening, just before he went to bed. As he grew up, he spent more time with them; however, as his parents spent little time together, Milne divided his own time between his mother and his father.
Time spent with his father led to Milne's love of mathematics and cricket, as well as to their shared pacifism. Though Milne spoke self-deprecatingly of his intellect, referring to himself many times as being "dim", he was intelligent for a boy of his age. The reason for his denying his intelligence was his ability to solve complex equations with little or no difficulty but his having to concentrate on much simpler ones.
From his mother, Milne acquired a talent for working with his hands. He owned a small tool kit, which he used to disassemble the lock on his nursery door when he was seven years old. By the age of 10, he had modified the works of a grandfather clock and altered a cap gun so that it would shoot real bullets.
In his childhood, Milne was fond of being associated with his father's books and helped him to write a few of the stories. Once, he went so far as to organise a short play for his parents, re-enacting a story about himself and his friends in the woods. However, after starting school, he was mocked by his peers, who recited passages from the books, particularly from the poem Vespers: "Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers." Milne therefore grew to resent the attention his father's success had brought him.
Milne first attended the Gibbs School, an independent school in London, in 1929. At age nine, he went on to Boxgrove Preparatory School, a privately owned preparatory school in Guildford (which closed in 1965), and then at 13 to Stowe School, an independent boys' school in Buckinghamshire, where he learned to box as a way to defend himself from his classmates' taunts. In 1939, he won a scholarship to study Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.
When World War II broke out, Milne left his studies and attempted to join the army but failed the medical examination. His father used his influence to get Milne a position with the second training battalion of the Royal Engineers. He received his commission in July 1942 and was posted to the Middle East and Italy.
While serving abroad, he began to resent what he saw as his father's exploitation of his childhood and came to hate the books that had thrust him into the public eye. After being discharged from the army, he went to Cambridge to complete his studies and graduated with a Third Class Honours degree in English.
On 24 July 1948, Milne married his first cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt. His mother disliked the marriage, partly because she did not get along with her brother, Lesley's father Aubrey. (She had wanted her son to marry his childhood friend, Anne Darlington.) In 1951, Milne and his wife moved to Dartmouth to found the Harbour Bookshop, which turned out to be a success, though his mother had thought the decision odd, as Milne did not seem to like "business", and as a bookseller would regularly have to meet Pooh fans. While both of these issues did at times cause them frustration, Milne and his wife ran their bookshop for many years without any help from royalties from sales of the Pooh books. After he retired from the bookshop, his wife and a business partner opened a secondhand bookshop. The Harbour Bookshop reopened in spring 2012 as a community-run bookshop.
Milne occasionally visited his father after the elder Milne became ill, but once his father died, he did not see his mother during the 15 years that passed before her death; even when she was on her deathbed she refused to see her son.
A few months after his father's death in 1956, Christopher's daughter Clare was born and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. She would later run a charity for the disabled called the Clare Milne Trust.
In 1974, Milne published the first of three autobiographical books. The Enchanted Places gave an account of his childhood and of the problems he had encountered because of the Pooh books.
Milne gave the original stuffed animals that inspired the Pooh characters to the books' editor, who in turn donated them to the New York Public Library; Marjorie Taylor (in her book Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them) recounts how many were disappointed at this, and Milne had to explain that he preferred to concentrate on the things that currently interested him. Milne had also disliked the idea of Winnie-the-Pooh being commercialised.
- The Enchanted Places (Methuen, 1974) ISBN 978-0-14-003449-3
- Path Through the Trees (Dutton, 1979) ISBN 978-0-525-17630-5
- Hollow on the Hill (Methuen, 1982) ISBN 978-0-413-51270-3
- The Windfall (Methuen, 1985) ISBN 0-413-58960-9
- The Open Garden (Methuen, 1988) ISBN 0-413-40800-0
- Thwaite, Ann. A.A. Milne: His Life London: Faber & Faber, 1990. ISBN 0-571-16168-5
- Biography of C.R. Milne, with photographs of him at various ages throughout his life at the Wayback Machine (archived 18 June 2007)
- BBC News article 27 November 2001: Christopher Robin revealed (describes the discovery in 2001 of images of Christopher Robin Milne captured on a 1929 film of a school pageant held in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex).
- Milne, Christopher (1974). The Enchanted Places. Eyre Methuen. ISBN 978-0-14-003449-3.
- Path Through the Woods
- Thwaite, p485
- Thwaite, p542
- Taylor, Marjorie (1999). Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them. Oxford University Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-19-507704-0.
- Heathcote, Graham (31 August 1980). "Christopher Robin turns 60". Kingman Daily Milner. p. 10.
- "The books live on. But in real life Toad is dead; Alice is dead; Peter Pan and Wendy are long flown; and now Christopher Robin, a 'sweet and decent' man who overcame a childhood in which he was haunted by Pooh and taunted by peers, has left without saying his prayers – he was a dedicated atheist – aged 75." Euan Ferguson, 'Robin's gone, but swallows linger on,' The Observer, 28 April 1996, News, Pg. 14.