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