Author Focus | Beatrix Potter
By Rebecca Reed
Helen Beatrix Potter, more famously known as Beatrix Potter was born on the 28th July 1866 to Rupert and Helen Potter in Kensington, London.
Beatrix and her brother Bertram loved to draw and paint and they often made sketches of their many pets, which included rabbits, mice. frogs, lizards, snakes and a bat! Beatrix’s earliest models were pet rabbits; Benjamin Bouncer, (he enjoyed buttered toast and joined the Potter family on holiday in Scotland, where he was walked on a lead). Peter Piper followed Benjamin and he had a talent for performing tricks, he accompanied Beatrix everywhere.
They were always encouraged to draw and this revealed an early fascination for the natural world, that would continue throughout her life. Beatrix never went to school, but she was intelligent and an industrious student. Her parents employed an art teacher, Miss Cameron, and a number of governesses including Annie Moore to whom she remained close with.
The Potter family traveled to Scotland every Summer for 3 months, this was her most exciting time of the year because Beatrix and her brother could explore the countryside. When she was 16 they stayed in Wray Castle, where Beatrix fell in love with the Lake District and the countryside.
Before she became a published author, Beatrix drew illustrations for some of her favourite stories including Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella. Her first story then came from a picture letter originally sent to Noel Moore, her governess Annie Moore’s son. It was rejected by many publishers so Beatrix made the decision to self-publish “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. She printed 250 copies for family and friends in December 1901. Due to the book’s instant success, this encouraged Fredrick Warne and Co, who had previously turned it down, to reconsider their decision offering to only take it if it was re-illustrated in colour. In October 1902, it was published in colour and became an instant bestseller. The next year she published “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” and “The Tailor of Gloucester”. As well as originally self-publishing her book, she also designed the first Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and registered it immediately at the patent office. The makes Peter Rabbit the oldest licensed literary character!
Beatrix found a suitor in the form of her editor Norman Warne, her parents did not approve of him as he worked “in trade”. Despite this, Beatrix became engaged to Norman in 1905 but sadly a month later he passed away after suffering from Leukemia. Beatrix loved the Lake District and it became her solace when Norman died.
Beatrix died in 1943 and as well as her literary legacy she left behind 15 farms and over 4000 acres of land left to the National Trust. Today more than 2 million Beatrix Potter books are sold around the world every year.
Her stories are timeless, passed down from generation to generation. Her art, books and merchandise are all a part of the enormous legacy that continues without her to this day.