Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), English Victorian artist and author of children's stories, creator of such winsome and nattily attired characters as Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, and of course Peter Rabbit.
Her books have been translated to braille and numerous languages including German, Latin, Welsh, Spanish, French, Japanese and Dutch. Many are still in print and beloved world-wide. Helen Beatrix Potter was born on 28 July 1866 in South Kensington, London, England. Her parents were Helen Leech and Rupert William Potter. Even as a young girl Beatrix, as she was known, loved animals enough to secret them away into the house including rabbits, frogs, kittens, hedgehogs and mice. A bout with rheumatic fever would affect her heart and health for the rest of her life. Though she was quite shy, she was a very creative girl, encouraged by her parents and governesses who taught her to paint and draw. She also kept a journal which illuminates her highly imaginative and sensitive nature.
The Potter family spent many summers in the Scottish Highlands and the Lake District of England where Beatrix and her brother Bertram immersed themselves in the natural world, which became a life-long passion and subject of intense study for Potter. She explored the varied geography and flora and fauna, recording her observations of the landscape, fossils, insects, fungi, birds, flowers and animals in sketches, drawings, and watercolours. She also made the acquaintance of a kindly Vicar and writer, Hardwicke Rawnsley, who was also a lover of the Lakeland and advocated for its preservation. He would become a great supporter and mentor to her in her future life as writer.
Whilst in London living with her parents and governess Beatrix would visit the Museum of Natural History to sketch and continue her studies though it was sometimes frowned upon that a woman was pursuing such studies. When she was away from home visiting the countryside she wrote some short stories and greeting cards for her governesses' children, and one of them formed the basis of her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902). Young and mischievous, Peter gets into various binds with Mr. McGregor, who happens to have a lush garden full of fresh carrots.
When the royalties started coming in Potter purchased property, then Hill Top farm in Sawrey, where she raised Herdwick sheep and increasingly spent her time, though she would still visit with her elderly parents in London. On 15 October 1913 Potter married the country solicitor William Heelis. Potter continued to increase her lands and write books at Hill Top, the quaint stone home, lush gardens and surroundings the setting for so many of her stories. Today it is still visited by many admirers of her classic childhood tales. Potter often submitted her stories to children first to 'test' them before publishing. She worked her finely detailed illustrations in pen and ink, pencil, watercolours, and oil.
Helen Beatrix Heelis died on 22 December 1943. After cremation her ashes were scattered over her lands. Her vast estate of thousands of acres was left entirely to her husband, whereupon his death it was bequeathed to the National Trust. The Beatrix Potter Society was founded in 1980.
Other Beatrix Potter titles are; The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903), The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904), The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher (1905), The Story of Miss Moppet (1906), The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907), The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck (1908), The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909), The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911), Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes (1917) and The Tale of Johnny Town Mouse (1918).
Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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