Fatally, Milne de­cided to in­clude a ver­sion of his son in the poems and sto­ries about Win­nie the Pooh

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

North Africa and Italy. It was when he re­turned to Eng­land to set­tle down that he re­ally be­gan to re­sent his fa­ther, and the un­quench­able fic­tion­alised ver­sion of him­self.

Af­ter com­plet­ing a maths de­gree at Cam­bridge, he found it al­most im­pos­si­ble to get work: bit­terly, he de­cided that his name — and his fa­ther’s work — must have some­thing to do with it.

“He had made his way by his own ef­forts,” he later wrote, “and he had left be­hind him no path that could be fol­lowed. But were they en­tirely his own ef­forts? Hadn’t I come into it some­where?

“In pes­simistic mo­ments, when I was trudg­ing Lon­don in search of an em­ployer 1954). But after­wards he never spoke to his mother, and a 15-year si­lence ended with her death, in 1971.

Mean­while, Pooh was thriv­ing. Af­ter Milne’s death, his wife un­sen­ti­men­tally sold the rights to all his char­ac­ters to an Amer­i­can film pro­ducer called Stephen Slesinger: af­ter his death, Win­nie and co were bought by Dis­ney, who turned Milne’s sto­ries into a series of much-loved an­i­mated shorts. They would help guar­an­tee Pooh’s en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity, and earn hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for a bunch of strangers.

Milne had writ­ten the Pooh sto­ries as a kind of in­stinc­tive re­ac­tion to the hor­rors of the Great War, and their sunny in­no­cence had chimed with a trau­ma­tised gen­er­a­tion. But all his other lit­er­ary ac­com­plish­ments would be oblit­er­ated by their suc­cess. “I sup­pose that ev­ery one of us se­cretly hopes for im­mor­tal­ity,” he once wrote. He achieved it, but not in the way he might have liked.

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