Milne 'deeply regretted naming Pooh book hero after his son'

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The Independent Culture

Christopher Robin, the boy hero of Winnie-the-Pooh, brought pleasure to many children. But a manuscript which has surfaced after 70 years reveals that the writer, A A Milne, deeply regretted naming the character after his son.

Milne's son felt his life was blighted by the association with his fictional namesake and he even refused to stock the books containing him, in the bookshop he ran in Dorset.

In a little-known essay written in 1929, the original manuscript of which has turned up at Sotheby's, Milne foresaw the danger. He wrote: "I feel that the legal Christopher Robin has already had more publicity than I want for him. Moreover, since he is growing up, he will soon feel that he has had more publicity than he wants for himself."

Milne also insisted in the essay, called Certain Personal Matters, contrary to popular opinion, that he did not relate the childhood antics of his son, who died in 1996, through the fictional Christopher Robin. Instead, he says, it was an amalgamation of his own, universal and imagined childhood.

He explains how he came to name his son: "I decided on two initials rather than one, because I wanted him to play for England, like W G Grace and C B Fry. Years later I wrote a book called When We Were Very Young, and since he was very much in my mind when I wrote it, I dedicated it to him."

Christopher Robin appeared in Now We Are Six and The House at Pooh Corner as well as Winnie-the-Pooh, which have an international following.Sarah Hanmer, who rents out the home where Christopher Robin Milne lived for 30 years, now "Eyore's Cottage" in south Devon, said: "There is tremendous interest. We get visitors from all over the world."

Catherine Porter, illustrated children's books specialist at Sotheby's, said yesterday: "With the immense publicity and nostalgia which has surrounded the books, people have always assumed they were based on his son. His life was blighted by the association, and he resented it terribly.

"By naming the character after his son, it was a bit ridiculous of Milne to assume that people would not connect the two. It seems he was perceptive enough by 1929 to be aware that he had created a monster that took over and was going to have a detrimental effect on his son's life.

She said the real Christopher Robin was a very unhappy child. "He always felt his father had based the character on him. This proves he did not."

The five-page manuscript, which contains amendments and crossings out, is expected to fetch between £6,000 and £8,000 at auction.