Christopher Robin Milne
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|Christopher Robin Milne|
Young Milne with Pooh Bear
21 August 1920|
Chelsea, London, England
|Died||20 April 1996(aged 75)|
|Spouse(s)||Lesley de Sélincourt (1948)|
|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 to author Alan Alexander Milne and Dorothy Milne (née de Sélincourt). He was delivered by Bessie Bashford, a midwife trained at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London who had moved in with the couple a month before the birth of their baby. 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 "Winnipeg" that Milne saw at London Zoo, eventually became the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh character.
Although Milne spoke self-deprecatingly of his own intellect, referring to himself many times as "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 against 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 tried 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 back to Cambridge to complete his studies, but graduated with only 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. This 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 closed in September 2011 and was succeeded in nearby premises on 5 December of that year by the Dartmouth Community Bookshop, which is a not-for-profit community co-operative organized by volunteers with one salaried manager.
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 later ran 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. He disliked the idea of Winnie-the-Pooh being commercialised.
Milne lived for some years with myasthenia gravis, and died in his sleep on 20 April 1996. He was seventy-five years old. After his death he was described by one newspaper as a "dedicated atheist".
- 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". Archived from the original on 18 June 2007. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
- 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).
- History of Winnie the Pooh. Just-Pooh.com – Discover the magic world of Pooh. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
- "Winnie", Historica Minutes: The Historica Foundation of Canada; retrieved 30 May 2008.
- Milne, Christopher (1974). The Enchanted Places. Eyre Methuen. ISBN 978-0-14-003449-3.
- Path Through the Woods
- http://www.dartmouth-today.co.uk/news.cfm?id=36416&y=2011[dead link]
- Thwaite, p485
- Thwaite, p. 542
- "The Clare Milne Trust - supporting disability projects in Devon and Cornwall with grants".
- 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.