I personally believe that articles are wonderful things but whoever titled this book for American audiences did not apparently agree: the wonderfully named It’s Too Late Now by A.A. Milne became Autobiography by A.A. Milne (not ‘the’, not ‘an’, just Autobiography) when it was published in America in 1939. Obviously that in no way impaired the excellence of the contents but, in trading the light-hearted UK title for the bland American one, I can’t help but feel that the publisher’s marketing people let everyone down. But Milne disappoints no one with this lovely, amusing chronicle of the first fifty-odd years of his life. I was completely charmed and entertained, perhaps because it is clear from the start that Milne (Alan) is writing this for himself. If the reader happens to enjoy it too, excellent, if not, at least Alan will have had a good time looking back on his life:
In this book, as in everything which I have written, I have humoured the author. Whatever happens to the public, the author is not going to be bored. I have enjoyed looking back on the past, and if others now find enjoyment in looking over my shoulder, I am as glad as my publishers will be. But let us be quite clear that this is my part, not theirs.
Born in London in 1882, young Alan had a joyful childhood and adult Alan has a marvellous time recalling it. The chapters on his early days, from his birth until he left home in 1893 for school, were my favourite (and also formed the largest single section of the book). He has such fond, strong memories and clearly delights in revisiting them, remembering endless family jokes, energetic holidays, and the freedom he and his favourite brother, both early risers, had to roam about Victorian London in the early hours of the morning before school. We are given a very clear understanding of family affections and allegiances, primarily young Alan’s relationships with his much-adored father and slightly older brother (and childhood best friend), Ken. Of the eldest brother, Barry, we hear very little, except how comically determined the parents were to treat all three children equally: