By Rebecca Reed
To mark this fantastic author’s birthday, we are celebrating all things Potter (no, not the wizard!); Beatrix Potter, the marvellous creator of Peter Rabbit and the gang.
A true love of nature
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 which would continue throughout her life. Potter 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.
The Potter family travelled 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. At 16, Potter and her family stayed in Wray Castle. This was where she fell in love with the Lake District and the countryside as a whole.
The Birth of Peter Rabbit
Before she became a published author, Potter 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 Potter made the decision to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She printed 250 copies for family and friends in December 1901. The book’s instant success encouraged Fredrick Warne and Co to reconsider their decision, offering to only take it if it was re-illustrated in colour.
In October 1902, The Tale of Peter Rabbit 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, Potter designed the first Peter Rabbit doll in 1903. She registered it immediately at the patent office. This makes Peter Rabbit the oldest licensed literary character!
The legacy of Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter 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 Warne in 1905 but sadly, a month later, he passed away from Leukemia. She loved the Lake District and it became her solace when Warne died.
Beatrix Potter died in 1943 and, as well as the literary legacy, she left behind 15 farms and over 4000 acres of land which she gifted 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 after her to this day. We celebrate the brilliant children’s author that many have grown up with. Be sure to stop by our Beatrix Potter selection here at World of Books.
What do you think of Beatrix Potter? Did you have a favourite story of hers growing up? Let us know in the comments below.