A. A. Milne reads from Winnie the Pooh

July 10, 2014 • 9:28 am

Maria Povoa made a tw**t that (via reader Grania Spingies)  led me to a delightful recording of A.A. Milne reading a chapter from his book Winnie the Pooh. Here’s the tw**t:

Picture 1

Here’s the introduction to the five-minute video from Brain Pickings, written by Popova:

On February 13, 1924, Punch magazine published a short poem titled “Teddy Bear” by Alan Alexander Milne, one of the magazine’s editors and a frequent contributor. The poem, inspired by the stuffed teddy bear so dearly beloved by Milne’s four-year-old son Christopher Robin, was included in Milne’s collection of children’s verses,When We Were Very Young, illustrated by Punchstaff cartoonist E. H. Shepard and published later that year. But the bear’s very first appearance inPunch was the birth of Winnie-the-Pooh, which Milne released two years later and which went on to become one of the most timeless children’s books ever written.

In the summer of 1929, the Dominion Gramophone Company set out to capture prominent British authors reading from their work. In this rare recording, Milne reads the third chapter of his classic, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” made all the more delightful by his enchantingly melodic voice — please enjoy:

I did enjoy! Click on the screenshot below to go to the recording, then click on the SoundCloud box:

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 10.15.04 AM

I love Winnie the Pooh. I had all the Milne books, bought for me in England when I was five, and I can still recite “Now we are six” by heart. And I used to play Poohsticks in the Potomac River.

When I’m happy, I sometimes see myself as the bouncy Tigger:


But more often as the dolorous and depressive Eeyore:


I hope parents still buy these books for their kids; they’re surely timeless. Piglet! Owl! Kanga and Roo!


38 thoughts on “A. A. Milne reads from Winnie the Pooh

  1. Timeless indeed. Enjoyed the recording. I was brought up on Thorton W Burgess books. Wish I’de kept them.

  2. I love Winnie the Pooh too (which has to be illustrated by EH Shepard of course).

    You may already know, but there was an authorised sequal, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus, in the style of Milne and Shepard, which I enjoyed.

  3. Yes. As it happens, I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon playing Poohsticks. Any river or creek, no matter how small or big, is made for Poohsticks and variations thereof as far as my three year old is concerned.

  4. “I’ve been foolish and deluded…”

    If only it were so easy to undelude religious Woozlists. If their supply of Hunny depends on not knowing how to read tracks, they’re very resistant to learning.

  5. Very nice. When I was a student in the Seventies, Winnie Pooh was widely read in universities (off curriculum naturally) and I am informed that this is still so.

    The recordings by Alan Bennett are very good.

    The Tao of Pooh was popular for a time, then later The Te of Piglet, more or less coinciding with the Tao of Physics (different writer). Pooh takes the simplistic middle path through life, posing few existentialist dilemmas, more or less letting his problems solve themselves while maintaining his capacity for wonder.
    Whereas I don’t necessarily advocate this, he is very Tao.

    1. Yes, I am very fond of those comparisons. I was always struck by the ‘deepness’ of the stories.

    2. I remember also reading in college, around 1980, a book by Harry Crews called the Pooh Perplex, which parodied various styles of literary criticism, all analyzing Winnie the Pooh.

        1. Crews also wrote a sequel, “Post-Modern Pooh.” Having read my share of this nonsense in college, I can say that his satire is dead on.

  6. The recording’s fascinating. No-one has that accent anymore, except perhaps the Queen. But it was very popular in the mid-twentieth century.

    I mean that weird thing certain parts of the “upper” class did with their vowels:
    Piglet scretched his ear.
    Suddenly Pooh stopped and pointed excaitedly in front of him.

    1. Probably the radio and TV rounded off the accents. The growth of Grammar schools (middle and not upper class) and access of other social classes to university education. The loss of empire in which accent denoted social status. If you speak with that accent now, people will think you are giving yourself airs (trying to be posh).
      I have three accents in my immediate family: Liverpool, Dublin Irish and standard Southern English (we moved house from South to North when I was 14). There exist ‘posh’ and ‘less posh’ versions of all three

      1. Yes, I was also thinking that TV probably became the great equalizer. But as posh accents go, that one was really peculiar and it isn’t surprising that it fell out of vogue: it sounds as if you are trying to speak without opening your mouth. Very awkward and contrived.

        1. Its often called a ‘hot potato accent’. If you and your family spoke this way and the boys at public (=private) school and the officers in the army all speak this way, and then the chaps in the City had a similar accent, it would seem the normal way to speak. I’m sure the upper class didn’t mix much with the lower classes, and if it did it didn’t listen to them very much. Probably couldn’t understand them anyway.

    2. What the Queen had/has is a sociolect – “the language material of a social group or class which may serve as a ‘marker’ of that group or class.” (OED Online)

      In fact the same vowel sounds were to be heard in some working class southern English accents, along with dropped aitches which oft-times where originally unpronounced are re-inserted (hyper-correction).

      Standard accents are comparatively modern in most languages, results of modern communication smoothing out differences. The first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, had a Norfolk accent I understand, & Nelson certainly used Norfolk idioms, for example saying “Do you anchor Hardy” as a sort of imperative not as a question.

  7. I like Eeyore the best but I’m also partial to piglet. I had a bunch of little Pooh books as a kid but I don’t remember all the stories. I probably looked at them & imagined my own stories.

  8. Have always loved Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the characters and even can remember my mother reading some of them to me. She was particularly tickled by the fact that Pooh lived ‘under the name ‘Sanders’ (literally under that name on a sign).

    A shameless plug for the country I now call home: The name ‘Winnie’ for the character came from a bear donated to the London Zoo that Milne and his son visited frequently (Milne added the ‘the Pooh’). It was originally a Canadian orphan cub, adopted by a Captain in the Fort Garry Horse Regiment and the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps and named after the city of Winnipeg. The history of the bear is available at http://www.whiteriver.ca/article/winnie-the-pooh-6.asp

  9. Hmm, all these years and I’ve tacitly assumed that AA was of the female persuasion, altho never had reason to actually find out.

  10. Read Pooh avidly as a child. I lived near similar forest in another part of the south of England, with its own woods, paths and streams. I storied it was my own combination of fact and dreaming. Played Poohsticks which I still do. I would like to say I was Pooh , the bear with very little brain, feels like that sometimes, but actually I think I am more like Piglet.

  11. The version we had in the early 60’s was (as I recall) The World of Pooh, which included Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, and The World of Christopher Robin. Wonderful books. I think my sister still has them.

  12. Sophisticated theology in a nutshell.

    And I must say how very subversive for the time.


    By A. A. Milne

    Elizabeth Ann
    Said to her Nan:
    “Please will you tell me how God began?
    Somebody must have made Him. So
    Who could it be, ‘cos I want to know?”
    And Nurse said, “Well!”
    And Ann said, “Well?
    I know you know, and I wish you’d tell.”
    And Nurse took pins from her mouth, and said,
    “Now then, darling, it’s time for bed.”

    Elizabeth Ann
    Had a wonderful plan:
    She would run round the world till she found a man
    Who knew exactly how God began.

    She got up early, she dressed, and ran
    Trying to find an Important Man.
    She ran to London and knocked at the door
    Of the Lord High Doodleum’s coach-and-four.
    “Please, sir (if there’s anyone in),
    However-and-ever did God begin?”

    But out of the window, large and red,
    Came the Lord High Coachman’s face instead.
    And the Lord High Coachman laughed and said:
    “Well, what put that in your quaint little head?”

    Elizabeth Ann went home again
    And took from the ottoman Jennifer Jane.
    “Jenniferjane,” said Elizabeth Ann,
    “Tell me at once how God began.”
    And Jane, who didn’t much care for speaking,
    Replied in her usual way by squeaking.

    What did it mean? Well, to be quite candid,
    I don’t know, but Elizabeth Ann did.
    Elizabeth Ann said softly, “Oh!
    Thank you Jennifer. Now I know.”

  13. The stories about Pooh have always been very special to me. I am also reminded of the sweet song House At Pooh Corner
    by Loggins and Messina.
    I too grew up near extensive woods and fields. I explored these endlessly, mostly alone with my thoughts, and made countless discoveries about insects and other animals. I can just close my eyes, and I am there.

  14. I was so happy to share the Milne oeuvre with my kids when they were little. This was approximately coincident with the onslaught of Disney-fied Pooh VCR tapes. Though those were not terrible, I was glad my kids learned the real versions first. Even at their age they liked the books better.

    When We Were Very Young is my favorite book, and I can recite various snippets of many of the poems from memory.

  15. I always remember Eyore in the Latin version –
    ‘Salve, Urse Pu, dixit maestus Ior. ‘Si mane bonum est, dixit. ‘Quod in dubium voco, dixit.

    1. But it kind of loses something in translation. The pun in that excerpt is all about what the “good” in Good Morning means. (Tolkien did the same sort of thing with Gandalf & Bilbo in The Hobbit).

      Because Salve (hail, or greetings) is almost never translated as Good Morning, and especially not at school-level Latin, Eeyore’s comments only make sense if one already knows the original.

      I fondly also remember Asterix & Obelix in Latin. I do appreciate the idea of giving children translations of contemporary works to help them practice their Latin.

    2. I wish we learned Latin using Winnie the Pooh but the books we used now have special memories for me & I actually ordered them from England to have for the memories. 🙂

  16. I went to Rome, you know, and nobody speaks Latin now there except itinerant Irish priests. Stabo proprio mincto via!

    Schoolboy rhyme:
    Latin is a language,
    dead as dead can be.
    First it killed the Romans
    and now its killing me!

    1. Well, I certainly didn’t study Latin so I could speak it in Rome.

      Seriously though, I don’t think anybody has studied it so they could speak it in a long, long time. But it has other uses.

      1. Apparently Latin is still used in conversation in Vatican. The was a programme on BBC Radio Four a few years ago, in which they interviewed the translators who translate all the official documents (all written in Latin), into the various national languages. When they are in conversation with one another they speak in Latin.

        1. Edited Apparently Latin is still used in conversation in the Vatican. There was a programme on BBC Radio Four a few years ago, in which they interviewed the translators who translate all the official documents (all written in Latin), into the various national languages. When they are in conversation with one another they speak in Latin.

          1. I spoke to an Italian priest who was returning from work as a foreign missionary. He told me that it can happen that, in a group of missionaries abroad, some may only have Latin as a common language. If you spend a lot of time acquiring Latin and Classical Greek for theological study, you might not have the energy to learn another modern language like English, just because it is the modern lingua franca.
            To be a scholar of ancient texts requires a good command of the subtleties of the language, actually speaking it should not be a great obstacle at that point. I don’t think Latin grammar is more difficult than German, the main problem being tenses, genders and declensions (the latter two being alien to native English speakers). Maybe the rarity is to find someone that you can converse with. Reminds me of the Gaelic associations in Ireland, people send their children to summer schools so that they will meet other native speakers, otherwise in the daily town life the tendency is to speak English. An actual decision is made to become a fluent speaker.

        2. That’s one of the only outliers. Typically, when you learn Latin, you learn to read it and translate it into your own language. Fluency is your ability to read it without thinking about it.

  17. I think my generation was the last that commonly studied Latin in the State schools in England. It helped me learn Italian at the beginning of my 25 years spent there. It gave me a good grounding in elements of grammar. I never came even close to speaking it, though I can remember its use in Church (I am one of those of Irish origin who got a Catholic upbringing even if I hadn’t asked for it) when the Mass was still in Latin. Italians can understand Latin with little effort though to the Anglo-Saxon linguistic psychology Latin is a devious form of torture!

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