Christopher Robin Milne’s birth on August 21, 1920, heralded a new chapter in the life and writings of his father. A.A. Milne’s journey from the adult world back to that of the child began one evening in late 1922 when he climbed the stairs of his house on Mallard Street in Chelsea, to say “Good night” to Christopher. Reaching the top landing, he saw through the open nursery door Christopher kneeling and saying his prayers with his nanny, Olive Rand, sitting on the bed next to him. Instead of going into the nursery, Milne crept quietly back down the stairs, went into his study and wrote “Vespers.” He presented the poem to his wife at breakfast the next morning, and a few weeks later, she sent it to Vanity Fair in New York where it was published for a fee of fifty dollars. In 1923 Princess Marie Louise was forming a library for Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, and Milne wrote the poem out again for a tiny volume that he presented to the miniature library.

Milne had long been established as a writer of light verse and some of the seventy-nine poems comprising When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six had previously been published in adult periodicals such as Punch, Harper’s, Collier’s, and the Royal Magazine. In 1923 Milne was invited to contribute to a new children’s publication The Merry-Go-Round, and during the very wet family holiday in Wales that year, he completed “The Dormouse and the Doctor” for the magazine. As rain continued to dampen the holiday, he found time to write another dozen poems. Later, E.V. Knox, the editor of Punch, urged him to write more verses in a similar vein to form a children’s book. Ernest Shepard agreed to illustrate the poems, forming a partnership that would link their names forever to one of the most beloved of all bears, Winnie-the-Pooh.

But Pooh did not appear in When We Were Very Young. The poem “Edward Bear” was inspired by Christopher Robin’s teddy bear, Edward, bought at Harrods in London as a first birthday present. Edward Bear was re-christened Pooh after the momentous meeting between Christopher and Winnie, the American black bear, at the London Zoo in the summer of 1924.

Soon after its publication in 1924, When We Were Very Young sold in excess of fifty thousand copies, and was hailed as the greatest children’s book since Alice in Wonderland. After the success of the book of stories Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne was encouraged to write a second book of children’s verses. Now We Are Six appeared in 1927, and as Milne explained in the Introduction, “Pooh sat down on some of the pages by mistake.” In its first year sales exceeded 100,000 copies. More than seventy million of the four books have been sold worldwide in over thirty languages, and the stories and poems will be enjoyed by generations to come.

As Milne wrote in the closing paragraph of The House at Pooh Corner, “Wherever they go and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

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