Christopher Robin Milne
Christopher Robin Milne
Milne in 1928
|Born||21 August 1920|
Chelsea, London, England, UK
|Died||20 April 1996 (aged 75)|
Totnes, Devon, England, UK
Boxgrove Preparatory School
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
Lesley de Sélincourt (m. 1948)
|Children||Clare Milne (1956–2012)|
|Parent(s)||A. A. Milne|
Daphne de Sélincourt
Christopher Robin Milne (21 August 1920 – 20 April 1996) was an English bookseller and the only 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 Street, Chelsea, London, on 21 August 1920, to author Alan Alexander Milne and Daphne (née de Sélincourt) Milne. Milne speculated that he was an only child because "he had been a long time coming." From an early age Milne was cared for by his nanny Olive Brockwell, until May 1930, when he entered boarding school. Milne called her Nou, and stated "Apart from her fortnight's holiday every September we had not been out of each other's sight for more than a few hours at a time", and "we lived together in a large nursery on the top floor.":19, 21, 55, 97, 104
Milne's father explained that Rosemary was the intended name for their first born, if a girl. Realizing it was going to be a boy, he decided on Billy, but without the intention of actually christening him William. Instead, each parent chose a name, hence his legal name Christopher Robin. He was referred to within the family as Billy Moon, a combination of his nickname and his childhood mispronunciation of Milne. From 1929 onwards, he would be referred to simply as Christopher, and he later stated it was "The only name I feel to be really mine.":17–18
At his first birthday, Milne received an Alpha Farnell teddy bear, which he later named 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.
Milne spoke self-deprecatingly of his own intellect, "I may have been on the dim side", or "not very bright". He also described himself as being "good with his hands", and possessing a Meccano set. His self-descriptions included "girlish", since he had long hair and wore "girlish clothes", and being "very shy and 'un-self-possessed'".:37–41, 96
An early childhood friend was Anne Darlington, also an only child, who as Milne described it, was for his parents "the Rosemary that I wasn't." In fact Milne's mother hoped they would marry one day, hopes she abandoned when Milne turned 25.:22–24
In 1925, Milne's father bought Cotchford Farm, near Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Though still living in London, the family would spend weekends, Easter, and summer holidays there. As Milne described it, "So there we were in 1925 with a cottage, a little bit of garden, a lot of jungle, two fields, a river, and then all the green, hilly countryside beyond, meadows and woods, waiting to be explored." The place became the inspiration for fiction, with Milne stating, "Gill's Lap that inspired Galleon's Lap, the group of pine trees on the other side of the main road that became the Six Pine Trees, the bridge over the river at Posingford that became Pooh-sticks Bridge," and a nearby "ancient walnut tree" became Pooh's House. His toys, Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, plus two invented characters, Owl and Rabbit, came to life through Milne and his mother, to the point where his father could write stories about them. Kanga and Tigger were later presents from his parents.:42, 55, 58, 65, 77, 127:240
Of this time, Milne states, "I loved my Nanny, I loved Cotchford. I also quite liked being Christopher Robin and being famous.":92
When his nanny departed when he was age 9, Milne's relationship with his father grew. As he put it, "For nearly ten years I had clung to Nanny. For nearly ten more years I was to cling to him, adoring him as I had adored Nanny, so that he too became almost a part of me ..."
When Milne eventually wrote his memoirs, he dedicated them to Olive Brockwell, "Alice to millions, but Nou to me".:122, 137, 141, 159
At age 6, Milne and Anne Darlington attended Miss Walters' school. On 15 January 1929, Milne started at Gibbs, a boys' day school in Sloane Square, London. In May 1930, he started boarding school at Boxgrove School near Guildford. Of his time at boarding school, Milne said, "For it was now that began that love-hate relationship with my fictional namesake that has continued to this day.":97His father's books were popularly known by his schoolmates which made Milne a target of bullying by the other children. Milne later described the poem "Vespers" – about the toddler Christopher Robin saying his evening prayers – as "the one [work] that has brought me over the years more toe-curling, fist-clenching, lip-biting embarrassment than any other."
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 as a sapper 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; where he was later wounded as a platoon commander the following year. After the war, he returned to Cambridge and completed a degree in English literature.:13–21, 104, 116–118
On 11 April 1948, Milne became engaged to Lesley de Sélincourt, a cousin on his mother's side, and they married on 24 July 1948. In 1951, he and his wife moved to Dartmouth and started the Harbour Bookshop on 25 August. This turned out to be a success, although his mother had thought the decision odd, as Milne did not seem to like "business", and as a bookseller he would regularly have to meet Pooh fans.:167–168:107, 129–133, 147
Milne occasionally visited his father when the elder Milne became ill. After his father died, Milne never returned to Cotchford Farm. His mother eventually sold the farm and moved back to London, after disposing of his father's personal possessions. Milne, who did not want any part of his father's royalties, decided to write a book about his childhood. As Milne describes it, that book, The Enchanted Places, "... combined to lift me from under the shadow of my father and of Christopher Robin, and to my surprise and pleasure I found myself standing beside them in the sunshine able to look them both in the eye."
A few months after his father's death in 1956, Christopher Milne's daughter Clare was born and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.
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 in Totnes, Devon, aged 75. After his death he was described by one newspaper as a "dedicated atheist".
Milne had one child, a daughter named Clare, who had cerebral palsy. In adult life, she led several charitable campaigns for the condition, including the Clare Milne Trust. She died in 2012 at the age of 56 of a heart abnormality.
In the 2018 fantasy film Christopher Robin, an extension of the Disney Winnie the Pooh franchise, Ewan McGregor stars as an adult version of the fictionalised Christopher Robin. Though the names of his family and career were changed, he is seen being discouraged from remembering his childhood and joining the war effort as an adult (both events from the historical Christopher Robin's life).
- 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 (1990). A.A. Milne: His Life London: Faber & Faber, ISBN 0571161685
- "Biography of C.R. Milne, with photographs of him at various ages throughout his life". Archived from the original on 18 June 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
- 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 (1975). The Enchanted Places. E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. ISBN 978-0525292937.
- "10 Things You Never Knew about Christopher Robin". Pan Macmillan. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
- Milne, A.A. (2017). It's Too Late Now. London: Bello. p. 233. ISBN 978-1509869701.
- "History of Winnie the Pooh". Just-Pooh.com. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
- "Winnie". Historica Minutes: The Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
- Shelf, Off the; Repeat, ContributorRead Recommend (30 January 2015). "The Real Christopher Robin On Being Immortalized In Literature". HuffPost. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- "The Real Christopher Robin was Bullied because of Winnie the Pooh". The Vintage News. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- "The True Story Behind Winnie the Pooh and 'Goodbye Christopher Robin'". Time. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- Milne, Christopher (1979). The Path through the Trees. McClelland and Stewart. pp. 257–265. ISBN 978-0771060496.
- Thwaite, p. 485
- Thwaite, p. 542
- Taylor, Marjorie (1999). Imaginary Companions and the Children who Create Them. Oxford University Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0195077049.
- Heathcote, Graham (31 August 1980). "Christopher Robin turns 60". Kingman Daily Milner. p. 10.
- Thwaite, Ann. "Obituary: Christopher Milne". The Independent. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- "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, p. 14.
- "Supporting disability projects in Devon and Cornwall with grants". The Clare Milne Trust. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Sumner, Stephen. "Beloved children's author's legacy lives on". Sidmouth Herald. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
- Mark Kermode (1 October 2017). "Goodbye Christopher Robin review – delightful take on the difficult birth of Winnie-the-Pooh". The Guardian.