A Tale of Two Christopher Robins–or how I got my name
Since shortly after Nameberry hit the internet six years ago, my wife—who happens to be Linda Rosenkrantz—has been begging me to write a blog about how I got my name. Finally, after a long and stressful weekend of mattress shopping, I’ve given in.
The first thing you should know is that my parents had no intention of naming me Christopher Robin. Early in my mother’s pregnancy they had chosen for me the name Roger Clive. I don’t know where they got that combo from, but in any case they didn’t stand a chance. Because from the outset, my paternal grandparents–who lived a long way away, and doubtless felt frustrated about not being able to admire my mother’s swelling stomach in person—brusquely decided to override my parents, and in every phone call and missive would demand to know, “And how is little Christopher Robin doing?” This was prompted by my grandmother’s inordinate fondness for the A.A. Milne poem “Christopher Robin is Saying his Prayers,” from his book When We Were Very Young–that Christopher Robin being the author’s only son.
Though normally rather strong-willed, my parents finally took the hint, and so another Christopher Robin came into the world, one who became very confused when he discovered the wonderful books about Pooh Bear and his marvelous menagerie of friends, one little boy included. Who, I wondered, had taken the trouble to write these magical stories about me? And why hadn’t the artist who illustrated them done a better job of catching my likeness? I mean, I never wore sissy clothes like that!
Eventually I reached an age when, like Eeyore, I occasionally entertained such thoughts as “Why?” and “Wherefore?” and even “Inasmuch as which?” Put another way, I figured out that there was plenty of room in the world for more than one Christopher Robin (and I made damned sure that no one at school ever learned my middle name), but I never managed to escape my literary namesake entirely.
During my misspent youth in London, I lived for a while about a block from the house in which Christopher Robin Milne was born, and, through a friend, I got to know the area in the Ashdown Forest upon which the Hundred Acre Wood, setting of the Pooh stories, is based. Many years later I got to write a book about Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, and once—at an antiques auction in the English countryside, I was actually introduced to Christopher Milne. Our coincidence of names was noted and he said, with a certain sadness, “I hope it brings you greater happiness than it’s brought me.” Christopher, it seems, felt that he had been swallowed by the celebrity of his name.
Christopher Finch’s latest book is the detective story The Girl From Nowhere.