BEATRIX POTTER: The Fulfilment Not of Fact But of Fancy
I was not an enthusiastic reader as a child, say, 4 to 12 years old, nor in my early adolescence(13-15) for that matter. I read what I had to in primary school and poured my energies first into simple playing and then after the age of 9 organized sport. I was also keen on trying to make money and then I was more keen after making some. Watching TV was a big event from the age of six to nine until my mother sold this lighted chirping box.
Listening to music was central to my life as far back as I can remember. Having fun with my friends as far back as I can remember from, say, 1947 at the age of 3 to puberty in 1957 was part of who I was back then. I began to attend meetings with my parents in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Party, in the churches of various Christian denominations and in a new religion which had been in Canada for only half a century at the time--the Baha'i Faith.
I never came across Beatrix Potter’s children’s books. Potter died just seven months before I was born in 1944. She was a woman ahead of her time. She saw the money-making potential in her most famous character and created the first patented soft-toy in 1903. He was Peter Rabbit---the oldest licensed toy character. She also left an astounding legacy of stories, characters, art and 4000 acres of unspoiled landscape to the world by means of England’s National Trust.
ABC1 screened Miss Potter at 8:30 tonight, Christmas Day 2010. This delightful story of a part of her life from the age of 32 to 47, from about 1898 to about 1913, was a most fitting bit of TV for Christmas Day in Australia, for me at the age of 66 and retired from FT, PT and casual work. Potter is a post-Victorian and pre-modern writer. Her work is not a moralizing series of books; indeed, one critic calls her work “close to a series of immoral tales.”(1)
In my half a century of writing, 1960 to 2010, I have only written the following sentences about this famous writer: “A visitor to Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm in England's the Lake District exclaimed, "This is how I always imagined Peter-Rabbit-Land!” But Scotland, and not the Lake District, inspired Potter’s famous tale of Peter Rabbit. What we hold in our imagination is, so often, not fact but fancy--how we wish things, how we think things are. But, in reality, they are not!
Her writing, her 23 small format children's books, were the fulfilment not of the facts of life but of a rich imagination, of an acute artistic sensibility, and of simple and not-so-simple fancy. People in our world demand of heritage an imagined, not an actual, past. Sites wilfully contrived often serve heritage better than those faithfully preserved—at least sometimes. This was true of The Beatles' famous Abbey Road crossing.(2)-Ron Price with thanks to (1)Humphrey Carpenter in Katherine Chandler, "Thoroughly Post-Victorian, Pre-Modern Beatrix,” Children's Literature Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2007, The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 287–307; and (2) “The zebra-crossing made famous by The Beatles is given heritage status,” holidaylettings.co.uk, 25 December 2010.
Joining the Tower of London
and Buckingham Palace is the
pedestrian crossing near those
Abbey Road studios which the
Beatles made so iconic in 1969.
The crossing which appears on
the Fab Four's 1969 album title
Abbey Road has become one of
the capital's biggest attractions:
tourists renting London holiday
homes venture there to mimic
Paul McCartney, John Lennon,
George Harrison & Ringo Starr
just crossing that famous road.
The black and white crossing which
is thought to have moved slightly from
its original position, has now been given
official recognition by heritage minister
John Penrose. The nearby studios were
listed in February 2010. They were the
actually preserved, not wilfully contrived,
not some imagined, made-up past in ’69.(1)
(1) The zebra-crossing made famous by The Beatles was given heritage status this week. Some critics, with a sense of the importance of historical accuracy and detail, have expressed concern that the site of this crossing is not the actual site. That the crossing has been moved to fit the needs of municipal, or perhaps national, heritage preferences, these historical & anthropological connoisseurs argue, is a sad commentary on the dominance of modern commercial dictates over the truths and realities of history.
25 December 2010
Updated on: 23/2/'11