BEATRIX POTTER

 

HOME | BIOLOGY | BOOKS | FILMS | GEOGRAPHY | HISTORY | INDEX | INVESTORS | MUSIC | NEWS | SOLAR BOATS | SPORT

 

 

Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life.

 

 

Rupert Potter, Beatrix Potter and Bertram Potter

 


Born into a privileged Unitarian family, Potter, along with her younger brother, Walter Bertram (1872–1918), grew up with few friends outside her large extended family. Her parents were artistic, interested in nature and enjoyed the countryside. As children, Beatrix and Bertram had numerous small animals as pets which they observed closely and drew endlessly. Summer holidays were spent in Scotland and in the English Lake District where Beatrix developed a love of the natural world which was the subject of her painting from an early age.


She was educated by private governesses until she was eighteen. Her study of languages, literature, science and history was broad and she was an eager student. Her artistic talents were recognized early. Although she was provided with private art lessons, Potter preferred to develop her own style, particularly favouring watercolour. Along with her drawings of her animals, real and imagined, she illustrated insects, fossils, archeological artefacts, and fungi. In the 1890s her mycological illustrations and research on the reproduction of fungi spores generated interest from the scientific establishment. Following some success illustrating cards and booklets, Potter wrote and illustrated The Tale of Peter Rabbit publishing it first privately in 1901, and a year later as a small, three-colour illustrated book with Frederick Warne & Co. She became unofficially engaged to her editor Norman Warne in 1905 despite the disapproval of her parents, but he died suddenly a month later, of leukemia.


With the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, Potter bought Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, a tiny village in the English Lake District near Ambleside in 1905. Over the next several decades, she purchased additional farms to preserve the unique hill country landscape. In 1913, at the age of 47, she married William Heelis, a respected local solicitor from Hawkshead. Potter was also a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a prosperous farmer keenly interested in land preservation. She continued to write, illustrate and design spin-off merchandise based on her children’s books for Warne until the duties of land management and diminishing eyesight made it difficult to continue. Potter published over twenty-three books; the best known are those written between 1902 and 1922. She died on 22 December 1943 at her home in Near Sawrey at age 77, leaving almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park.


Potter’s books continue to sell throughout the world, in multiple languages. Her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet and animation.

 

 

Beatrix Potterm - The Tales of Peter Rabbit

 

 

LITERARY CAREER

 

Potter’s artistic and literary interests were deeply influenced by fairies, fairy tales and fantasy. She was a student of the classic fairy tales of Western Europe. As well as stories from the Old Testament, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, 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 folk tales and mythology of Scotland, the German Romantics, Shakespeare, and the romances of Sir Walter Scott. As a young child, before the age of eight, Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense, including the much loved The Owl and the Pussycat, and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland had made their impression, although she later said of Alice that she was more interested in Tenniel's illustrations than what they were about. The Brer Rabbit stories of Joel Chandler Harris had been family favourites and she later studied his Uncle Remus stories and illustrated them. She studied book illustration from a young age and developed her own tastes, but the work of the picture book triumvirate Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott, the last an illustrator whose work was later collected by her father, was a great influence. When she started to illustrate, she chose first the traditional rhymes and stories, "Cinderella", "Sleeping Beauty", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", "Puss-in-boots", and "Red Riding Hood". But most often her illustrations were fantasies featuring her own pets: mice, rabbits, kittens, and guinea pigs.


In her teenage years Potter was a regular visitor to the art galleries of London, particularly enjoying the summer and winter exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London. Her Journal reveals her growing sophistication as a critic as well as the influence of her father’s friend the artist Sir John Everett Millais who recognised Beatrix’s talent of observation. Although Potter was aware of art and artistic trends, her drawing and her prose style were uniquely her own.


As a way to earn a bit of money in the 1890s, Beatrix and her brother began to print Christmas cards of their own design, as well as cards for special occasions. Mice and rabbits were the most frequent subject of her fantasy paintings. 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 brought several more drawings for Weatherly’s Our Dear Relations, another book of rhymes, and the following year Potter successfully sold a series of frog illustrations and verses for Changing Pictures, a popular annual offered by the art publisher Ernest Nister. Potter was pleased by this success and determined to publish her own illustrated stories.

 

 

Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck

 


Whenever Potter went on holiday to the Lake District or Scotland, she sent letters to young friends illustrating them with quick sketches. Many of these letters were written to the children of her former governess Annie Carter Moore, particularly to her eldest son Noel who was often ill. In September 1893 Potter was on holiday at Eastwood in Dunkeld, Perthshire. She had run out of things to say to Noel and so she told him a story about "four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter." It became one of the most famous children’s letters ever written and the basis of Potter’s future career as a writer-artist-storyteller.


In 1900, Potter revised her tale about the four little rabbits, and fashioned a dummy book of it - it has been suggested, in imitation of Helen Bannerman's 1899 bestseller The Story of Little Black Sambo. Unable to find a buyer for the work, she published it for family and friends at her own expense in December 1901. It was drawn in black and white with a coloured frontispiece. Family friend Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley had great faith in Potter's tale, recast it in didactic verse, and made the rounds of the London publishing houses. Frederick Warne & Co. had previously rejected the tale but, eager to compete in the booming small format children's book market, reconsidered and accepted the "bunny book" (as the firm called it) following the recommendation of their prominent children's book artist L. Leslie Brooke. The firm declined Rawnsley's verse in favour of Potter's original prose, and Potter agreed to colour her pen and ink illustrations, choosing the then-new Hentschel three-colour process for reproducing her watercolours.

 

On 2 October 1902 The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published, and 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. Working with Norman Warne as her editor, Potter published two or three little books each year for a total of twenty-three books. The last book in this format was Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes in 1922, a collection of favourite rhymes. Although The Tale of Little Pig Robinson was not published until 1930, it had been written much earlier. Potter continued creating her little books until after the First World War when her energies were increasingly directed toward her farming, sheep-breeding and land conservation.


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.


Potter was also a canny 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. All were licensed by Frederick Warne & Co. and earned Potter an independent income as well as immense profits for her publisher.


In 1905, Potter and Norman Warne became unofficially engaged. Potter's parents objected to the match because Warne was "in trade" and thus not socially suitable. Sadly the engagement lasted only one month when Warne died of leukemia at age thirty-seven. That same year Potter used some of her income and a small inheritance from an aunt to buy Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey in Lancashire in the English Lake District. Potter and Warne may have hoped that Hill Top Farm would be their holiday home, but after Warne's death Potter went ahead with its purchase as she had always wanted to own that farm and live in "that charming village".

 

 

 

 

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)

  • The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903)

  • The Tailor of Gloucester (1903)

  • The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904)

  • The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904)

  • The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905)

  • The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905)

  • The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)

  • The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906)

  • The Story of Miss Moppet (1906)

  • The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)

  • The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908)

  • The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or, The Roly-Poly Pudding (1908)

  • The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909)

  • The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909)

  • The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910)

  • The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911)

  • The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912)

  • The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913)

  • Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes (1917)

  • The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)

  • Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes (1922)

  • The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930)

 

 

 

 

NOVELIST INDEX A - Z

 

 

Jeffrey Archer - Kane & Abel

Isaac Asimov - I Robot

Peter Benchley - Jaws

John Blaine - The Golden Skull

Enid Blyton - The Famous Five

Charlotte Bronte - Wuthering Heights

Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code

Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights

Edgar Rice Burroughs - Tarzan

Lee Child - One Shot

Agatha Christie - Murder on the Nile

Tom Clancy - The Hunt for Red October

Arthur C Clarke - Space Odyssey

Michael Connelly - The Lincoln Lawyer

Michael Crichton - Jurassic Park

Clive Cussler - Raise the Titanic

Daniel Dafoe - Robinson Crusoe

Roald Dahl - The Big Friendly Giant

Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist

Arthur Conan Doyle - Sherlock Homes

 

 

Alexander Dumas - Count Monte Christo

Ian Flemming - James Bond

John Grisham - The Pelican Brief

Augustus Hare - Longest Biography

Charlaine Harris - Dead Until Dark

Stephen HawkingA Brief History of Time

Ernest HemingwayOld Man and the Sea

Amanda Hocking - My Blood Approves

Jameson Hunter - $Billion Dollar Whale

E L James - 50 Shades of Grey

Stephen King - The Thing

Rudyard Kipling - The Jungle Book

Stieg Larson - Girl with Dragon Tattoo

D H Lawrence - Women in Love 

C S Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia

Jack LondonThe Sea Wolf

Robert Ludlum - Bourne Identity

Ian McEwan - Atonement

Alistair McLean - Bear Island

Herman Melville - Moby Dick

 

 

Kyotaro Nishimura - Terminal Murder

Patrick O'Brian

George Orwell - 1984

Beatrix Potter - The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Arthur Ransome - Swallows & Amazons

Nora Roberts - Sweet Revenge

Harold RobbinsThe Carpetbaggers

J K Rowling - Harry Potter

William Shakespeare - Romeo & Juliet

Sidney Sheldon - The Naked Face 

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Wilbur SmithShout at the Devil

Bram Stoker - Dracula

Robert Louis Stevenson - Treasure Island

Mark TwainAdventures Huckleberry Finn

Jules Verne - 20,000 Leagues U Sea

Edgar Wallace - King Kong 

H G Wells - War of the Worlds

Oscar Wilde - Picture of Dorian Gray

Virginia Woolf - To the Lighthouse

 

 

GRAPHIC NOVEL INDEX A - Z

 

 

 

Anita Blake - Guilty Pleasures

Batman

Captain America

Catwoman

John Storm - Kulo Luna

 

 

Ironman

Spiderman

Superman

Superwoman

The Incredible Hulk

 

 

The Fantastic Four

The Green Lantern

Tin Tin

Wonderwoman

X Men

 

 

 

 

Peter the Rabbit  - Youtube

 

Pigling - Youtube

 

 Tom & Jemima  - Youtube

 

Mr Tod - Youtube

 

 

 

LINKS:

 

Beatrix Potter’s fossils and her interest in geology - B. G. Gardiner

Works by Beatrix Potter at Project Gutenberg (plain text and HTML)

Collection of Potter materials at Victoria and Albert Museum

Beatrix Potter online feature at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences

Beatrix Potter in Cumbria

Beatrix Potter Society, UK

Beatrix Potter's World

Frederick Warne and Company

Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature

 

 

 

 

 

A taste for adventure

 

The $Billion Dollar whale, adventure story with John Storm

 

A heartwarming adventure: pirate whalers V conservationists

due for release in 2013 as an e-book, with a film production

planned for 2015 - TBA

 

 

This website is Copyright © 1999 & 2012 Max Energy Limited  an educational charity  working hard for world peace.  The bird logos and names Solar Navigator, Blueplanet Ecostar and Utopia Tristar are trademarks. All rights reserved.  All other trademarks are hereby acknowledged.

AUTOMOTIVE   |   BLUEPLANET BE3   |   ELECTRIC CARS  |   ELECTRIC CYCLES  |   SOLAR CARS  SOLARNAVIGATOR  | UTOPIA