Helen Beatrix Potter was born in Kensington, London on July 28, 1866. Beatrix Potter was a children’s author, a land owner, a wife, an animal lover, an illustrator, a botanist, and a conservationist. Beatrix Potter is perhaps best known for her published stories of Peter Rabbit.
As a child, Potter rarely had a chance to interact with other children as she was home-schooled. Potter was very lonely most times and even though she had a brother with whom she could socialize, her brother Bertram was rarely at home because of the boarding school that he attended. Potter found solace and comfort being with her animals. Potter had many different pets including frogs, newts, bats and rabbits. It was her two rabbits, Benjamin and Peter that she would later write a very popular children’s book series about.
Potter developed her illustrating skills by sketching her pets for hours at a time. Her rabbit Peter would accompany her on various short travels and Potter would sketch him again and again to greatly improve her skills. Another interest for young Potter was writing in a journal in a code no-one could read. The Journal of Beatrix Potter 1881-1897, which would be published some time later (after Potter’s death), was transcribed from the code by a Potter scholar named Leslie Linder.
Beatrix’s father, Rupert Potter, would rent a country house in the Lake District every summer for eleven years. Potter grew to love and appreciate the beauty of nature. A local vicar counseled with the Potter family at their country house and some years later this man founded the National Trust in an effort to protect the countryside. Beatrix Potter’s love of the Lake District and involvement in the creation of the National Trust developed within her the passion for conservation, and she would spend the rest of her life trying to do what she could to preserve the beauty of the mountains and lakes that were so much a part of her life.
Potter used the small animals that she adopted as pets and snuck into the house as the inspiration for many of her stories. At the age of thirty-six, Beatrix Potter’s story The Tale of Peter Rabbit was finally accepted by a publisher. In 1902 the publisher Frederick Warne & Co. saw very positive feedback from the release of the book. In fact, not only did the sale of the book do well but Potter and the publisher Norman Warne became secretly engaged. Unfortunately Warne fell ill and died before the two could be married. It goes without saying that Potter was deeply upset by the death of Warne but expressed to Warne’s sister that she knew that although Warne did not lead a long life, the life that he did lead was happy.
Potter was optimistic about making the next years of her own life happy and eventually wrote twenty-three books. Potter’s works were published in small format. This means that the stories were easy for a child to be able to hold and read. The last book that Potter published is called The Tale of Little Pig Robinson and it was published in 1930 (although the actual manuscript for the book had been many years in the making).
Still conscious of the environment and very much passionate about conservation, Potter used the royalties from her books and her inheritance money to purchase land. In fact, at the time of her death she owned about 4,000 acres of land including cottages and farms. In her will she left most of her land to the National Trust. Her property at the Hill Top Farm in Far Sawrey is now a popular tourist and literary attraction.
Leave a Reply