Beatrix and Peter
Something about this time of year always makes me ponder rabbits. So, who better to feature than the creator of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866 and died on December 22, 1943. Young Beatrix spent many hours sketching her beloved animals. She and her younger brother Bertram explored the countryside in England, as well as Scotland. Although she studied at the National Art Training School between 1878 and 1883, her delightful style of animal antics was primarily self-taught. Her talent for drawing grew and she later made up animal stories to go with her illustrations. Thanks to her father’s interest in photography, there are many pictures chronicling her life.
Potter and her mother Helen Leech Potter.
Rupert Potter (her father), Beatrix, and Bertram Potter (her brother), 1894.
Her first works were printed as greeting cards. In 1902, Frederick Warne & Co. published her enchanting The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This began her career where she wrote and illustrated more than two dozen books for children, including The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and other classics. In 1913, Potter married local lawyer William Heelis (after a much earlier romance with Norman Warne, who died weeks after his proposal). Her book-work slowed down now that she spent more time on farming and conservation than she did on writing, due not only to a growing interest in her land, but to her failing eyesight, as well. She was also a prosperous breeder of sheep, shown at right with her dog Kep.
Two wonderful events are happening this year to honor 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter. The Royal Mint has put Peter Rabbit on a 50p silver coin. He will be the first character from children’s literature ever to appear on a UK coin. Stay tuned, three more of Potter’s animal friends will also be on coins!
My second surprise is a long-lost story of Beatrix Potter’s will be published for the first time this year. The manuscript will need a bit of editing and unfortunately only one illustration was found, but talented Quentin Blake has stepped in to bring The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots to life. Look for it in your favorite bookstore next September. Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful spring, be on the watch for bunnies, and Happy Easter to all who celebrate!