Legacy of A.A. Milne - Oh dear....oh bother!
Sometimes a legacy unfolds in unexpected ways. Take, for example, Alan Alexander Milne’s legacy.
A noted author, poet, and playwright even before writing what he is best remembered for, Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne was like most writers in that he’d hoped to be recognized for his talents and to leave a lasting legacy.
"I suppose that every one of us hopes secretly for immortality; to leave, I mean, a name behind him which will live forever in this world, whatever he may be doing, himself, in the next."
Milne created an idyllic, carefree world for Pooh to explore and have his adventures in, called the ‘Hundred Acre Wood’. In addition to Winnie-the-Pooh, he filled it with other beloved characters such as Eeyore, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, and Roo. Christopher Robin, the human friend who would visit Pooh on occasion, was a character Milne modeled after his own son, Christopher Robin Milne.
These stories and movies were a staple in our home when our children were young. I loved the messages of the stories and the way friendships were valued. Everyone, including dour and depressed Eeyore, was accepted despite their differences. A positive legacy to leave, right? Well, in his real life, it was another story entirely for Christopher Robin and his parents.
The enormous success of the Pooh stories meant that both Milne Sr. and Jr. received much publicity. Christopher did not seem to mind the fame as a young child, performing bits from the books and writing back to his fans, but his father stopped writing the children’s books. In part, it was out of concern for the impact all the attention could have on his son: "I feel that the legal Christopher Robin has already had more publicity than I want for him. I do not want CR Milne to ever wish that his name were Charles Robert."
As an adolescent, Christopher went to boarding school, where he was teased and bullied due to his fictional namesake. He started to resent the books that had brought him such notoriety. Later, when he was unsuccessful in finding meaningful employment, he began to view his father’s success as an exploitation of his childhood, and he began to pull away from his parents.
This distancing from his parents turned into outright estrangement in his twenties, when he met and fell in love with his first cousin on his mother’s side, Lesley de Sélincourt. Christopher's mother hadn't spoken to her brother, Lesley’s father, in over 30 years. Eventually, he and Lesley got married, moved away and bought a bookshop.
Christopher never did reconcile with his parents. He rarely saw or spoke with his father before A.A. died in 1956. His mother lived for 15 years after his father died, but Christopher only saw her once.
Legacies and life….
Like the balloon in this painting, they can be fun and positive one minute, then turn you upside down and leave you hanging the next.
"Happy birthday, A.A. Milne!". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2019.