"Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality."
Beatrix Was Not Her First Name-Potter was born in 1866 and was christened Helen for her mother. Her family and friends called her Beatrix which was her middle name.
Letter from Potter to Noël Moore, dated 4th February 1895, from the Morgan Library and Museum
Her Writing Career Was Started by Her Innovative “Picture Letters” -Potter’s most famous book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was inspired by an illustrated letter Potter wrote to Noel, the son of her former governess, Annie, in 1893. She later asked to borrow the letter back and copied the pictures and story, which she then adapted to create the much-loved tale.
Peter Rabbit was Based Upon a Real Rabbit-Peter was modeled on Potter’s own pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer, a cherished rabbit that she sometimes took for walks on a leash. On one notable occasion Potter gave the rabbit some hemp seeds as a treat, and the next morning the rabbit was still so intoxicated that she was unable to sketch him.
The House that Beatrix Grew Up In Was Full of Animals-Potter kept a whole host of pets in her schoolroom at home—rabbits, hedgehogs, frogs, and mice. She would capture wild mice and let them run loose. When she needed to recapture them she would shake a handkerchief until the wild mice would emerge to fight the imagined foe and promptly be scooped up and caged. When her brother Bertram went off to boarding school he left a pair of long-eared pet bats behind. The animals proved difficult to care for so Potter set one free, but the other, a rarer specimen, she dispatched with chloroform then set about stuffing for her collection.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit Was Not Successful- Potter self-published the Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1901, funding the print run of 250 herself after being turned down by several commercial publishers. In 1902 the book was republished by Frederick Warne & Co after Potter agreed to re-do her black-and-white illustrations in color. By the end of its first year in print, it was in so much demand it had to be reprinted six times.
Beatrix Was a Naturalist and a Woman Before Her Time- Beatrix was fascinated by nature and was constantly recording the world around her in her drawings. Potter was very interested in fungi and became an accomplished scientific illustrator, going on to write a paper, “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae,” proposing her own theory for how fungi spores reproduced. The paper was presented on Potter’s behalf by the Assistant Director of Kew Gardens at a meeting of the Linnean Society on April 1, 1897, which Potter was unable to attend because at that time women were not allowed at meetings of the all-male Linnean Society—even if their work was deemed good enough to be presented.
Beatrix Often Made Notes and Observed Nature in Her Own Secret Code- Between 1881 and 1897 Potter kept a journal in which she jotted down her private thoughts in a secret code. This code was so fiendishly difficult it was not cracked and translated until 1958.
Beatrix Was a Prolific Writer-Potter created and wrote an enormous number of stories, publishing between two and three stories every year. Beatrix wrote 28 books in total. Her stories have been translated into 35 different languages and have sold over 100 million copies combined.
Beatrix Ran a Sheep Farm- Potter was an award-winning sheep farmer and in 1943 she was the first woman elected President of the Herdwick’s Sheepbreeder’s Association.
You Can Visit Her House -Beatrix Left her house Hill Top Farm to the British National Trust. Beatrix Potter's 17th-century farmhouse: is a time-capsule of her life. You can walk through the farmhouse and view her original drawings and stories and explore the barns and fields.
Photograph of Beatrix Potter aged 8, with her parents, by Rupert Potter, 1874
Beatrix Potter was truly a woman born before her time. Born Helen Beatrix Potter on July 28, 1866, in London, England, Beatrix Potter is one of the most beloved children's authors of all time. She was the daughter of Rupert and Helen Potter, both of whom were artistic. Her father was a trained lawyer, but he never practiced law. He devoted himself to photography and art. Beatrix’s mother Helen was a skilled watercolor artist and embroiderer. Beatrix knew several influential artists and writers through her parents. Potter, along with her young brother Bertram, developed an interest in nature and animals at an early age. The pair explored the countryside during family vacations to Scotland and England's Lake District. Potter demonstrated a talent for sketching as a child with animals being one of her favorite subjects. In the late 1870s, she began studying at the National Art Training School.
Still Life Drawing of a Vase and a Pomegranate painted by Beatrix Potter at age 15 in 1881
Beatrix Potter was interested in every branch of natural science except astronomy. Potter collecting fossils, archeological artefacts from London excavations, and studied entomology. She sketched and painted her specimens with great skill. By the 1890s her scientific interests centered on the study of fungus-mycology. Beatrix found that her gender kept scientists from taking her seriously. There is a collection of her fungus paintings at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery in Perth, Scotland.
“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits,and their names were—.Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.” ....There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you" …Beatrix Potter
In 1890, the firm of Hildesheimer and Faulkner bought several of her drawings of her rabbit Benjamin Bunny to illustrate verses by Frederic Weatherly titled A Happy Pair. In 1893, the same printer bought several more drawings. Beatrix was pleased by this success and determined to publish her own illustrated stories. Potter's artistic and literary interests were deeply influenced by fairies, fairy tales and fantasy. She was a student of the classic fairy tales. And stories from the Old Testament, she grew up with Aesop's Fables, the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies, the Scottish folk tales and mythology. One of her most famous works.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, started out as a story she wrote for the children of a former governess in a letter. Potter later transformed this letter into a book, which she published privately. In 1902, Frederick Warne & Co. brought this delightful story to the public. Their new edition of The Tale Of Peter Rabbit quickly became a hit with young readers. More animal adventures soon followed with The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903) and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904) among other stories.
The immense popularity of Potter's books was based on the lively quality of her illustrations, the non-didactic nature of her stories, the depiction of the rural countryside, and the imaginative qualities she lent to her animal characters. In 1902, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published, and it was an immediate success. It was followed the next year by The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester, which had also first been written as picture letters to the Moore children. Potter 23 books in all. The last book in this format was Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes in 1922, a collection of favorite rhymes. Although The Tale of Little Pig Robinson was not published until 1930, it had been written much earlier. Potter continued creating her books until after the First World War, when her energies were increasingly directed toward her farming, sheep-breeding and land conservation.
Potter was also an astute businesswoman. As early as 1903, she made and patented a Peter Rabbit doll. It was followed by other "spin-off" merchandise over the years, including painting books, board games, wall-paper, figurines, baby blankets and china tea-sets.
"We cannot stay home all our lives, we must present ourselves to the world and we must look upon it as an adventure"...Beatrix Potter
In 1905, Potter used some of her income and a small inheritance from an aunt to buy Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey in the English Lake District near Windermere. She had always wanted to own that farm, and live in "that charming village". In 1907 Beatrix bought contiguous pasture to Hill Top. In 1909 She bought the 20 acre Castle Farm across the road from Hill Top Farm. She visited Hill Top at every opportunity, and her books written during this period (such as The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, about the local shop in Near Sawrey and The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, a wood mouse) reflect her increasing participation in village life and her delight in country living.
Owning and managing these working farms required routine collaboration with a lawyer- William Heelis. By the summer of 1912 Heelis had proposed marriage and Beatrix had accepted. Potter and Heelis were married in 1913 in London at St Mary Abbots in Kensington. The couple moved immediately to Near Sawrey, residing at Castle Cottage, the renovated farm house on Castle Farm, which was 34 acres large. Hill Top remained a working farm but was now remodeled and Potter's private studio and workshop were built. At last her own woman, Potter settled into the partnerships that shaped the rest of her life: her country solicitor husband and his large family, her farms, the Sawrey community and the predictable rounds of country life. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tale of Tom Kitten are representative of Hill Top Farm and of her farming life, and reflect her happiness with her country life. Instead of writing, Potter focused much of her attention on her farms and land preservation in the Lake District. She was a successful breeder of sheep and well regarded for her work to protect the beautiful countryside she adored.
Beatrix Potter and her husband, William Heelis, 1913
By the late 1920s Potter and her Hill Top farm manager Tom Storey had made a name for their prize-winning Herdwick flock, which took many prizes at the local agricultural shows, where Potter was often asked to serve as a judge. In 1942 she became President-elect of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders’ Association, the first time a woman had ever been elected, but died before taking office.
Potter died of complications from pneumonia and heart disease on 22 December 1943 at Castle Cottage. She left nearly all her property to the National Trust, to protect it from development and to preserve it for future generations, including over 4,000 acres of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep. Hers was the largest gift at that time to the National Trust, and it enabled the preservation of the land now included in the Lake District National Park and the continuation of fell farming.
Beatrix left almost all the original illustrations for her books to the National Trust. The copyright to her stories and merchandise was then given to her publisher Frederick Warne & Co, now a division of the Penguin Group. On 1 January 2014, the copyright expired in the UK and other countries with a 70-years-after-death limit. Hill Top Farm was opened to the public by the National Trust in 1946; her artwork was displayed there until 1985 when it was moved to William Heelis's former law offices in Hawkshead, also owned by the National Trust as the Beatrix Potter Gallery.
Helen Beatrix Potter age 6
The largest public collection of her letters and drawings is the Leslie Linder Bequest and Leslie Linder Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2015 a manuscript for an unpublished book was discovered by Jo Hanks, a publisher at Penguin Random House Children's Books, in the Victoria and Albert Museum archive. The book The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, with illustrations by Quentin Blake was published in September 2016, to mark the 150th anniversary of Potter's birth.
Be Sure to check out our Counted Cross Stitch Patterns inspired by Beatrix Potter's illustrations CLICK HERE
Beatrix Potter: The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius by Linda Lear
Beatrix Potter: Her Art and Inspiration by the National Trust
Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller and Countrywoman by Judy Taylor
The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881 to 1897 by Leslie Linder
That Naughty Rabbit: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit by Judy Taylor
Beatrix Potter's Lake District by Vivienne Crow and Gilly Cameron Cooper
A Victorian Naturalist: Beatrix Potter's drawings from the Armitt Collection by Beatrix Potter and Eileen Jay
Hill Top Farm: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top
Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/292