Beatrix Potter

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Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter by King cropped.jpg
Potter in 1913
BornHelen Beatrix Potter
(1866-07-28)28 July 1866
West Brompton, London, England
Died22 December 1943(1943-12-22) (aged 77)
Near Sawrey, Lancashire, England
OccupationChildren's author and illustrator
Notable works The Tale of Peter Rabbit
William Heelis
(m. 1913)
Relatives Edmund Potter (grandfather)

Helen Beatrix Potter ( /ˈbətrɪks/ , [1] 28 July 1866 22 December 1943) was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist. She is best known for her children's books featuring animals, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit , which was her first published work in 1902. Her books, including 23 Tales, have sold more than 250 million copies. [2] [3] Potter was also a pioneer of merchandising—in 1903, Peter Rabbit was the first fictional character to be made into a patented stuffed toy, making him the oldest licensed character. [4]


Born into an upper-middle-class household, Potter was educated by governesses and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and spent holidays in Scotland and the Lake District, developing a love of landscape, flora and fauna, all of which she closely observed and painted. Potter's study and watercolours of fungi led to her being widely respected in the field of mycology. In her thirties, Potter self-published the highly successful children's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Following this, Potter began writing and illustrating children's books full-time.

Potter wrote over sixty books, with the best known being her twenty-three children's tales. With the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, in 1905 Potter bought Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, a village in the Lake District. Over the following 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 and illustrate, and to design spin-off merchandise based on her children's books for British publisher Warne until the duties of land management and her diminishing eyesight made it difficult to continue.

Potter died of pneumonia and heart disease on 22 December 1943 at her home in Near Sawrey at the age of 77, leaving almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park. Potter's books continue to sell throughout the world in many languages with her stories being retold in songs, films, ballet, and animations, and her life is depicted in two films and a television series.


Early life

Potter aged eight, c. 1874 Potter about 1874.JPG
Potter aged eight, c. 1874

Potter's family on both sides were from the Manchester area. [5] They were English Unitarians, [6] associated with dissenting Protestant congregations, influential in 19th century England, that affirmed the oneness of God and that rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. Potter's paternal grandfather, Edmund Potter, from Glossop in Derbyshire, owned what was then the largest calico printing works in England, and later served as a Member of Parliament. [7]

Potter's father, Rupert William Potter (1832–1914), was educated at Manchester College by the Unitarian philosopher James Martineau. [8] [9] He then trained as a barrister in London. Rupert practised law, specialising in equity law and conveyancing. He married Helen Leech (1839–1932) on 8 August 1863 at Hyde Unitarian Chapel, Gee Cross. Helen was the daughter of Jane Ashton (1806–1884) and John Leech, a wealthy cotton merchant and shipbuilder from Stalybridge. Helen's first cousins were siblings Harriet Lupton (née Ashton) and Thomas Ashton, 1st Baron Ashton of Hyde. It was reported in July 2014 that Potter had personally given a number of her own original hand-painted illustrations to the two daughters of Arthur and Harriet Lupton, who were cousins to both Beatrix Potter and Catherine, Princess of Wales. [8] [10]

Potter aged fifteen with her springer spaniel, Spot Young Beatrix.jpg
Potter aged fifteen with her springer spaniel, Spot

Potter's parents lived comfortably at 2 Bolton Gardens, West Brompton, London, where Helen Beatrix was born on 28 July 1866 and her brother Walter Bertram on 14 March 1872. [11] The house was destroyed in the Blitz. Bousfield Primary School now stands where the house once was. A blue plaque on the school building testifies to the former site of the Potter home. [12] Both parents were artistically talented, [13] and Rupert was an adept amateur photographer. [14] [15] Rupert had invested in the stock market, and by the early 1890s, he was extremely wealthy. [16]

Beatrix Potter was educated by three governesses, the last of whom was Annie Moore (née Carter), just three years older than Potter, who tutored Potter in German as well as acting as lady's companion. [17] She and Potter remained friends throughout their lives, and Annie's eight children were the recipients of many of Potter's picture letters. It was Annie who later suggested that these letters might make good children's books. [18]

Potter, aged 16, stayed at Wray Castle in 1882 on a family vacation, thus began her long association with the English Lake District Wray Castle, Windermere.jpg
Potter, aged 16, stayed at Wray Castle in 1882 on a family vacation, thus began her long association with the English Lake District

She and her younger brother Walter Bertram (1872–1918) grew up with few friends outside their large extended family. Her parents were artistic, interested in nature, and enjoyed the countryside. As children, Potter and Bertram had numerous small animals as pets which they observed closely and drew endlessly. In their schoolroom, Potter and Bertram kept a variety of small pets—mice, rabbits, a hedgehog and some bats, along with collections of butterflies and other insects—which they drew and studied. [19] Potter was devoted to the care of her small animals, often taking them with her on long holidays. [20] In most of the first fifteen years of her life, Potter spent summer holidays at Dalguise, an estate on the River Tay in Perthshire, Scotland. There she sketched and explored an area that nourished her imagination and her observation. [21] Her first sketchbook from those holidays, kept at age 8, and dated 1875, is held at and has been digitised by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. [22] Potter and her brother were allowed great freedom in the country, and both children became adept students of natural history. In 1882, when Dalguise was no longer available, the Potters took their first summer holiday in the Lake District, at Wray Castle near Lake Windermere. [23] Here Potter met Hardwicke Rawnsley, vicar of Wray and later the founding secretary of the National Trust, whose interest in the countryside and country life inspired the same in Potter and who was to have a lasting impact on her life. [24] [25]

At about the age of 14, Potter began to keep a diary, written in a simple substitution cipher of her own devising. Her Journal was important to the development of her creativity, serving as both sketchbook and literary experiment. In tiny handwriting, she reported on society, recorded her impressions of art and artists, recounted stories and observed life around her. [26] The Journal, deciphered and transcribed by Leslie Linder in 1958, does not provide an intimate record of her personal life, but it is an invaluable source for understanding a vibrant part of British society in the late 19th century. It describes Potter's maturing artistic and intellectual interests, her often amusing insights into the places she visited, and her unusual ability to observe nature and to describe it. Started in 1881, her journal ends in 1897 when her artistic and intellectual energies were absorbed in scientific study and in efforts to publish her drawings. [27] Precocious but reserved and often bored, she was searching for more independent activities and wished to earn some money of her own while dutifully taking care of her parents, dealing with her especially demanding mother, [28] and managing their various households.

Scientific illustrations and work in mycology

Beatrix Potter: reproductive system of Hygrocybe coccinea, 1897 Beatrix Potter- Mycology. Source- Armitt Museum and Library.jpg
Beatrix Potter: reproductive system of Hygrocybe coccinea , 1897

Beatrix Potter's parents did not discourage higher education. As was common in the Victorian era, women of her class were privately educated and rarely went to university. [29]

Beatrix Potter was interested in every branch of natural science except astronomy. [30] Botany was a passion for most Victorians and nature study was a popular enthusiasm. She collected fossils, [31] studied archaeological artefacts from London excavations, and was interested in entomology. In all these areas, she drew and painted her specimens with increasing skill. By the 1890s, her scientific interests centred on mycology. First drawn to fungi because of their colours and evanescence in nature and her delight in painting them, her interest deepened after meeting Charles McIntosh, a revered naturalist and amateur mycologist, during a summer holiday in Dunkeld in Perthshire in 1892. He helped improve the accuracy of her illustrations, taught her taxonomy, and supplied her with live specimens to paint during the winter. Curious as to how fungi reproduced, Potter began microscopic drawings of fungus spores (the agarics ) and in 1895 developed a theory of their germination . [32] Through the connections of her uncle Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe , a chemist and vice-chancellor of the University of London , she consulted with botanists at Kew Gardens , convincing George Massee of her ability to germinate spores and her theory of hybridisation . [33] She did not believe in the theory of symbiosis proposed by Simon Schwendener , the German mycologist, as previously thought; instead, she proposed a more independent process of reproduction. [34]

Rebuffed by William Thiselton-Dyer, the Director at Kew, because of her sex and her amateur status, Potter wrote up her conclusions and submitted a paper, On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae, to the Linnean Society in 1897. It was introduced by Massee because, as a female, Potter could not attend proceedings or read her paper. She subsequently withdrew it, realising that some of her samples were contaminated, but continued her microscopic studies for several more years. Her paper has only recently been rediscovered, along with the rich, artistic illustrations and drawings that accompanied it. Her work is only now being properly evaluated. [35] [36] [37] Potter later gave her other mycological and scientific drawings to the Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside, where mycologists still refer to them to identify fungi. There is also a collection of her fungus paintings at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery in Perth, Scotland, donated by Charles McIntosh. In 1967, the mycologist W.P.K. Findlay included many of Potter's beautifully accurate fungus drawings in his Wayside & Woodland Fungi, thereby fulfilling her desire to one day have her fungus drawings published in a book. [38] In 1997, the Linnean Society issued a posthumous apology to Potter for the sexism displayed in its handling of her research. [39]

Artistic and literary career

First edition, 1902 Peter Rabbit first edition 1902a.jpg
First edition, 1902

Potter's artistic and literary interests were deeply influenced by 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 , [40] the folk tales and mythology of Scotland, the German Romantics, Shakespeare, [41] and the romances of Sir Walter Scott. [42] As a young child, before the age of eight, Edward Lear's A 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. [43]

The Brer Rabbit stories of Joel Chandler Harris had been family favourites, and she later studied his Uncle Remus stories and illustrated them. [44] 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. [45] [46] 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". [47] However, most often her illustrations were fantasies featuring her own pets: mice, rabbits, kittens, and guinea pigs. [48]

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. [49] 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 Potter's talent of observation. Although Potter was aware of art and artistic trends, her drawing and her prose style were uniquely her own. [50]

Potter illustration, "Toad's Tea Party", c. 1905, which appears in her Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes, 1917 Beatrix Potter 'Toads Tea-party' c.1905 Bk of Rhymes (1917).jpg
Potter illustration, "Toad's Tea Party", c. 1905, which appears in her Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes , 1917

As a way to earn money in the 1890s, Potter printed Christmas cards of her own design, as well as cards for special occasions. These were her first commercially successful works as an illustrator. [51] Mice and rabbits were the most frequent subject of her fantasy paintings. In 1890, the firm of Hildesheimer and Faulkner bought several of the drawings of her rabbit Benjamin Bunny to illustrate verses by Frederic Weatherly titled A Happy Pair. In 1893, the same printer bought several more drawings for Weatherly's Our Dear Relations, another book of rhymes, and the following year Potter 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. [52]

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 Moore's 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. [53]

Potter's dummy manuscripts of three of her books - designed to see how the printed book would look Beatrix Potter dummy manuscripts.jpg
Potter's dummy manuscripts of three of her books – designed to see how the printed book would look

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 . [54] 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. 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. [55] 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 new Hentschel three-colour process to reproduce her watercolours. [56]

Potter used many real locations for her book illustrations. The Tower Bank Arms, Near Sawrey appears in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. Tower Bank Arms.jpg
Potter used many real locations for her book illustrations. The Tower Bank Arms, Near Sawrey appears in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.

On 2 October 1902, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published and was an immediate success. [57] 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: 23 books in all. 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. [58]

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. [59] [60]

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. [61]

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. The engagement lasted only one month—Warne died of pernicious anaemia at age 37. [62] 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 the English Lake District near Windermere. 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". [63]

Country life and marriage

Hill Top in Near Sawrey - Potter's former home, now owned by the National Trust and preserved as it was when she lived and wrote her stories there. Hill Top Farm.jpg
Hill Top in Near Sawrey  – Potter's former home, now owned by the National Trust and preserved as it was when she lived and wrote her stories there.

The tenant farmer John Cannon and his family agreed to stay on to manage the farm for her while she made physical improvements and learned the techniques of fell farming and of raising livestock, including pigs, cows and chickens; the following year she added sheep. Realising she needed to protect her boundaries, she sought advice from W.H. Heelis & Son, a local firm of solicitors with offices in nearby Hawkshead. With William Heelis acting for her, she bought contiguous pasture, and in 1909 the 20 acres (8.1 ha) Castle Farm across the road from Hill Top Farm. She visited Hill Top at every opportunity, and her books written during this period (such as The Tale of Ginger and Pickles , about the local shop in Near Sawrey and The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse , a wood mouse) reflect her increasing participation in village life and her delight in country living. [64]

Owning and managing these working farms required routine collaboration with the widely respected William Heelis. By the summer of 1912, Heelis had proposed marriage and Potter had accepted; although she did not immediately tell her parents, who once again disapproved because Heelis was only a country solicitor. Potter and Heelis were married on 15 October 1913 in London at St Mary Abbots in Kensington. The couple moved immediately to Near Sawrey, residing at Castle Cottage, the renovated farmhouse on Castle Farm, which was 34 acres large. Hill Top remained a working farm but was now remodelled to allow for the tenant family and Potter's private studio and workshop. At last her own woman, Potter settled into the partnerships that shaped the rest of her life: her country solicitor husband and his large family, her farms, the Sawrey community and the predictable rounds of country life. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and The Tale of Tom Kitten are representative of Hill Top Farm and her farming life and reflect her happiness with her country life. [65]

Rupert Potter died in 1914 and, with the outbreak of World War I, Potter, now a wealthy woman, persuaded her mother to move to the Lake District and found a property for her to rent in Sawrey. Finding life in Sawrey dull, Helen Potter soon moved to Lindeth Howe (now a 34-bedroomed hotel), a large house the Potters had previously rented for the summer in Bowness, on the other side of Lake Windermere. [66] Potter continued to write stories for Frederick Warne & Co and fully participated in country life. She established a Nursing Trust for local villages and served on various committees and councils responsible for footpaths and other rural issues. [67]

Sheep farming

Soon after acquiring Hill Top Farm, Potter became keenly interested in the breeding and raising of Herdwick sheep, the indigenous fell sheep. In 1923 she bought a large sheep farm in the Troutbeck Valley called Troutbeck Park Farm, formerly a deer park, restoring its land with thousands of Herdwick sheep. This established her as one of the major Herdwick sheep farmers in the county. She was admired by her shepherds and farm managers for her willingness to experiment with the latest biological remedies for the common diseases of sheep, and for her employment of the best shepherds, sheep breeders, and farm managers. [68]

By the late 1920s, Potter and her Hill Top farm manager Tom Storey had made a name for their prize-winning Herdwick flock, which took many prizes at the local agricultural shows, where Potter was often asked to serve as a judge. In 1942 she became President-elect of the Herdwick Sheepbreeders' Association, the first time a woman had been elected, but died before taking office. [69]

Lake District conservation

Lake District in North West England Derwent Water, Lake District, Cumbria - June 2009.jpg
Lake District in North West England

Potter had been a disciple of the land conservation and preservation ideals of her long-time friend and mentor, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, the first secretary and founding member of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. [70] According to the National Trust, "she supported the efforts of the National Trust to preserve not just the places of extraordinary beauty but also those heads of valleys and low grazing lands that would be irreparably ruined by development." Potter was also an authority on the traditional Lakeland crafts and period furniture, [71] as well as local stonework. She restored and preserved the farms that she bought or managed, making sure that each farm house had in it a piece of antique Lakeland furniture. Potter was interested in preserving not only the Herdwick sheep but also the way of life of fell farming. [72] In 1930 the Heelises became partners with the National Trust in buying and managing the fell farms included in the large Monk Coniston Estate. [73]

The estate was composed of many farms spread over a wide area of north-western Lancashire, including the Tarn Hows. Potter was the de facto estate manager for the Trust for seven years until the National Trust could afford to repurchase most of the property from her. Potter's stewardship of these farms earned her full regard, but she was not without her critics, not the least of which were her contemporaries who felt she used her wealth and the position of her husband to acquire properties in advance of their being made public. She was notable in observing the problems of afforestation, preserving the intact grazing lands, and husbanding the quarries and timber on these farms. All her farms were stocked with Herdwick sheep and frequently with Galloway cattle. [74]

Later life

"This Little Piggy" illustration by Potter from her Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes, 1922 PotterCecily8.jpg
"This Little Piggy" illustration by Potter from her Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes , 1922

Potter continued to write stories and to draw, although mostly for her own pleasure. Her books in the late 1920s included the semi-autobiographical The Fairy Caravan , a fanciful tale set in her beloved Troutbeck fells. It was published only in the US during Potter's lifetime, and not until 1952 in the UK. Sister Anne, Potter's version of the story of Bluebeard, was written for her American readers, but illustrated by Katharine Sturges. A final folktale, Wag by Wall, was published posthumously by The Horn Book Magazine in 1944. Potter was a generous patron of the Girl Guides, whose troupes she allowed to make their summer encampments on her land, and whose company she enjoyed as an older woman. [75]

Potter and William Heelis enjoyed a happy marriage of thirty years, continuing their farming and preservation efforts throughout the hard days of World War II. Although they were childless, Potter played an important role in William's large family, particularly enjoying her relationship with several nieces whom she helped educate, and giving comfort and aid to her husband's brothers and sisters. [76]

Potter died of complications from pneumonia and heart disease on 22 December 1943 at Castle Cottage, and her remains were cremated at Carleton Crematorium, Blackpool. She left nearly all her property to the National Trust, including over 4,000 acres (16 km2) of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep. Hers was the largest gift at that time to the National Trust, and it enabled the preservation of the land now included in the Lake District National Park and the continuation of fell farming. The central office of the National Trust in Swindon was named "Heelis" in 2005 in her memory. William Heelis continued his stewardship of their properties and of her literary and artistic work for the twenty months he survived her. When he died in August 1945, he left the remainder to the National Trust. [77]


Goody and Mrs. Hackee, illustration to The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes, 1911 Goody and Mrs. Hackee.jpg
Goody and Mrs. Hackee, illustration to The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes, 1911

Potter left almost all the original illustrations for her books to the National Trust. The copyright to her stories and merchandise was then given to her publisher Frederick Warne & Co, now a division of the Penguin Group. On 1 January 2014, the copyright expired in the UK and other countries with a 70-years-after-death limit. Hill Top Farm was opened to the public by the National Trust in 1946; her artwork was displayed there until 1985 when it was moved to William Heelis's former law offices in Hawkshead, also owned by the National Trust as the Beatrix Potter Gallery. [78]

Potter gave her folios of mycological drawings to the Armitt Library and Museum in Ambleside before her death. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is owned by Frederick Warne and Company, The Tailor of Gloucester by the Tate Gallery, and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by the British Museum. [79]

"Potter was also an entrepreneur and a pioneer in licensing and merchandising literary characters. Potter built a retail empire out of her “bunny book” that is worth $500 million today. In the process, she created a system that continues to benefit all licensed characters, from Mickey Mouse to Harry Potter."

How Beatrix Potter Invented Character Merchandising, Smithsonian magazine, 2017. [80]

In 1903, Potter created the first Peter Rabbit soft toy and registered him at the Patent Office in London, making Peter the oldest licensed fictional character. [4] [81] Erica Wagner of The Times states, "Beatrix Potter was the first to recognise that content—as we now call the stuff that makes up a book or a film—was only the beginning. In 1903, Peter hopped outside his pages to become a patented soft toy, which gave him the distinction of being not only Mr. McGregor‘s mortal enemy, but also becoming the first licensed character". [4] Nicholas Tucker in The Guardian writes, "she was the first author to license fictional characters to a range of toys and household objects still on sale today". [82]

The largest public collection of her letters and drawings is the Leslie Linder Bequest and Leslie Linder Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. (Linder was the collector who—after five years of work—finally transcribed Potter's early journal, originally written in code.) In the United States, the largest public collections are those in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Cotsen Children's Library at Princeton University. [83]

In 2015 a manuscript for an unpublished book was discovered by Jo Hanks, a publisher at Penguin Random House Children's Books, in the Victoria and Albert Museum archive. The book The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots , with illustrations by Quentin Blake, [84] was published 1 September 2016, to mark the 150th anniversary of Potter's birth. [85] Also in 2016, Peter Rabbit and other Potter characters featured on a series of UK postage stamps issued by the Royal Mail. [86]

In 2017, The Art of Beatrix Potter: Sketches, Paintings, and Illustrations by Emily Zach was published after San Francisco publisher Chronicle Books decided to mark the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth by showing that she was "far more than a 19th-century weekend painter. She was an artist of astonishing range." [87]

In December 2017, the asteroid 13975 Beatrixpotter, discovered by Belgian astronomer Eric Elst in 1992, was named in her memory. [88] In 2022, an exhibition Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Research for the exhibition identified the man's court waistcoat c. 1780s, which inspired Potter's sketch in 'The Tailor of Gloucester'. [89]


There are many interpretations of Potter's literary work, the sources of her art, and her life and times. These include critical evaluations of her corpus of children's literature and Modernist interpretations of Humphrey Carpenter and Katherine Chandler. Judy Taylor, That Naughty Rabbit: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit (rev. 2002) tells the story of the first publication and many editions. [90]

Potter's country life and her farming have been discussed in the work of Susan Denyer and other authors in the publications of The National Trust, such as Beatrix Potter at Home in the Lake District (2004). [91]

Potter's work as a scientific illustrator and her work in mycology are discussed in Linda Lear's books Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (2006) [92] and Beatrix Potter: The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius (2008). [93] [94]


In 1971, a ballet film was released, The Tales of Beatrix Potter , directed by Reginald Mills, set to music by John Lanchbery with choreography by Frederick Ashton, and performed in character costume by members of the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House orchestra. [95] The ballet of the same name has been performed by other dance companies around the world. [96]

In 1992, Potter's children's book The Tale of Benjamin Bunny was featured in the film Lorenzo's Oil . [97]

Potter is also featured in Susan Wittig Albert's series of light mysteries called The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. The first of the eight-book series is Tale of Hill Top Farm (2004), which deals with Potter's life in the Lake District and the village of Near Sawrey between 1905 and 1913. [98]

In film

In 1982, the BBC produced The Tale of Beatrix Potter. This dramatization of her life was written by John Hawkesworth, directed by Bill Hayes, and starred Holly Aird and Penelope Wilton as the young and adult Potter, respectively. The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends , a TV series based on nine of her twenty-four stories, starred actress Niamh Cusack as Beatrix Potter. [99]

In 1993, Weston Woods Studios made an almost hour non-story film called "Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller, and Countrywoman" with narration by Lynn Redgrave. In 2006, Chris Noonan directed Miss Potter , a biographical film of Potter's life focusing on her early career and romance with her editor Norman Warne. The film stars Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson. [100]

On 9 February 2018, Columbia Pictures released Peter Rabbit , directed by Will Gluck, based on the work by Potter. [101] The character Bea, played by Rose Byrne, is a re-imagined version of Potter. [102] A sequel to the film titled Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway was released in 2021. [103]

On 24 December 2020, Sky One premiered Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse , a made-for-television drama film inspired by the true story of a six-year-old Roald Dahl meeting his idol Potter. [104] [105] [106] Set in 1922, the movie was written by Abigail Wilson, directed by David Kerr and starred Dawn French as Beatrix Potter, Rob Brydon as William Heelis and Jessica Hynes as Sofie Dahl. Filming took place in Wales (the birthland of Dahl, French and Brydon), during the COVID-19 pandemic. This production incorporates live action, stop motion and puppetry. The DVD was released on 26 April 2021.


The 23 Tales

Other books

  1. Peter Rabbit's Painting Book (1911)
  2. Tom Kitten's Painting Book (1917)
  3. Jemima Puddle-Duck's Painting Book (1925)
  4. Peter Rabbit's Almanac for 1929 (1928)
  5. The Fairy Caravan (1929)
  6. Sister Anne (illustrated by Katharine Sturges) (1932)
  7. Wag-by-Wall (decorations by J. J. Lankes) (1944)
  8. The Tale of the Faithful Dove (illustrated by Marie Angel) (1955, 1970)
  9. The Sly Old Cat (written 1906; first published 1971)
  10. The Tale of Tuppenny (illustrated by Marie Angel) (1973)
  11. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots (2016) [84] (Illustrated by Quentin Blake.)
  12. Red Riding Hood (2019) (Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.)

Related Research Articles

<i>The Tale of Peter Rabbit</i> 1901 book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter that follows mischievous and disobedient young Peter Rabbit as he gets into, and is chased around, the garden of Mr. McGregor. He escapes and returns home to his mother, who puts him to bed after offering him chamomile tea. The tale was written for five-year-old Noel Moore, the son of Potter's former governess, Annie Carter Moore, in 1893. It was revised and privately printed by Potter in 1901 after several publishers' rejections, but was printed in a trade edition by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1902. The book was a success, and multiple reprints were issued in the years immediately following its debut. It has been translated into 36 languages, and with 45 million copies sold it is one of the best-selling books in history.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hill Top, Cumbria</span> Writers house museum in Hawkshead, Cumbria

Hill Top is a 17th-century house in Near Sawrey near Hawkshead, in the English county of Cumbria. It is an example of Lakeland vernacular architecture with random stone walls and slate roof. The house was once the home of children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter who left it to the National Trust. It is a Grade II* listed building. It is open to the public as a writer's house museum, shown as Beatrix Potter herself would have known it.

<i>The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in July 1909. After two full-length tales about rabbits, Potter had grown weary of the subject and was reluctant to write another. She realized however that children most enjoyed her rabbit stories and pictures, and so reached back to characters and plot elements from The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904) to create The Flopsy Bunnies. A semi-formal garden of archways and flowerbeds in Wales at the home of her uncle and aunt became the background for the illustrations.

<i>The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher is a children's book, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was published by Frederick Warne & Co. in July 1906. Jeremy's origin lies in a letter she wrote to a child in 1893. She revised it in 1906, and moved its setting from the River Tay to the English Lake District. The tale reflects her love for the Lake District and her admiration for children's illustrator Randolph Caldecott.

<i>The Tale of Ginger and Pickles</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Ginger and Pickles is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1909. The book tells of two shopkeepers who extend unlimited credit to their customers and, as a result, are forced to go out of business. It was originally published in a large format which permitted very detailed illustrations and also allowed Potter to include black-and-white vignettes. Potter filled the tale with characters from her previous books. The book was eventually republished in the standard small format of the Peter Rabbit series and was adapted to drama in 1931.

<i>The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle</i> Childrens book written by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1905. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle is a hedgehog washerwoman (laundress) who lives in a tiny cottage in the fells of the Lake District. A human child named Lucie happens upon the cottage and stays for tea. The two deliver freshly laundered clothing to the animals and birds in the neighbourhood. Potter thought the book would be best enjoyed by girls, and, like most girls' books of the period, it is set indoors with a focus on housework.

<i>The Tailor of Gloucester</i> 1902 childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tailor of Gloucester is a Christmas children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, privately printed by the author in 1902, and published in a trade edition by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1903. The story is about a tailor whose work on a waistcoat is finished by the grateful mice he rescues from his cat and was based on a real world incident involving a tailor and his assistants. For years, Potter declared that of all her books it was her personal favourite.

<i>The Tale of Tom Kitten</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Tom Kitten is a children's book, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was released by Frederick Warne & Co. in September 1907. The tale is about manners and how children react to them. Tabitha Twitchit, a cat, invites friends for tea. She washes and dresses her three kittens for the party, but within moments the kittens have soiled and lost their clothes while scampering about the garden. Tabitha is "affronted". She sends the kittens to bed, and tells her friends the kittens have the measles. Once the tea party is underway however, its "dignity and repose" are disturbed by the kittens romping overhead and leaving a bedroom in disorder.

<i>The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1905. It tells of a cat called Ribby and a tea party she holds for a dog called Duchess. Complications arise when Duchess tries to replace Ribby's mouse pie with her own veal and ham pie, and then believes she has swallowed a small tin pastry form called a patty-pan. Its themes are etiquette and social relations in a small town.

<i>The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. In December 1918. The tale is based on the Aesop fable, "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse", with details taken from Horace's Satires 2.6.79-117. It tells of a country mouse and a city mouse who visit each other in their respective homes. After sampling the other's way of life, both express a decided preference for their own. The book was critically well received. The Johnny Town-mouse character appeared in a 1971 ballet film, and the tale has been adapted to a BBC television animated series.

<i>The Tale of Benjamin Bunny</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in September 1904. The book is a sequel to The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), and tells of Peter's return to Mr. McGregor's garden with his cousin Benjamin to retrieve the clothes he lost there during his previous adventure. In Benjamin Bunny, Potter deepened the rabbit universe she created in Peter Rabbit, and, in doing so, suggested the rabbit world was parallel to the human world but complete and sufficient unto itself.

<i>The Tale of Two Bad Mice</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Two Bad Mice is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in September 1904. Potter took inspiration for the tale from two mice caught in a cage-trap in her cousin's home and a doll's house being constructed by her editor and publisher Norman Warne as a Christmas gift for his niece Winifred. While the tale was being developed, Potter and Warne fell in love and became engaged, much to the annoyance of Potter's parents, who were grooming their daughter to be a permanent resident and housekeeper in their London home.

<i>The Story of Miss Moppet</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Story of Miss Moppet is a tale about teasing, featuring a kitten and a mouse, that was written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co for the 1906 Christmas season. Potter was born in London in 1866, and between 1902 and 1905 published a series of small-format children's books with Warne. In 1906, she experimented with an atypical panorama design for Miss Moppet, which booksellers disliked; the story was reprinted in 1916 in small book format.

<i>The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in October 1911. Timmy Tiptoes is a squirrel believed to be a nut-thief by his fellows, and imprisoned by them in a hollow tree with the expectation that he will confess under confinement. Timmy is tended by Chippy Hackee, a friendly, mischievous chipmunk who has run away from his wife and is camping-out in the tree. Chippy urges the prisoner to eat the nuts stored in the tree, and Timmy does so but grows so fat he cannot escape the tree. He regains his freedom when a storm topples part of the tree. The tale contrasts the harmonious marriage of its title character with the less than harmonious marriage of the chipmunk.

<i>The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit is a children’s book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in December 1906. The book tells of a bad little rabbit who forcefully takes another rabbit's carrot, but soon loses his tail and whiskers after being fired upon by a hunter. The book was intended for babies and very young children, and was originally published on a strip of paper that folded into a wallet and was tied with a ribbon. The format was unpopular with booksellers, and eventually reprinted in the standard small book format of the Peter Rabbit library. Although the book sold well, there are not many left in existence. It provides the young child with an introduction to books and the Peter Rabbit universe.

<i>Appley Dapplys Nursery Rhymes</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes is the first of two collections of nursery rhymes written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was first published in 1917. The title character is a brown mouse who takes food out of a cupboard in someone else’s house.

<i>Cecily Parsleys Nursery Rhymes</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, and published by Frederick Warne & Co. in December 1922. The book is a compilation of traditional English nursery rhymes such as "Goosey Goosey Gander", "This Little Piggy" and "Three Blind Mice". The title character is a rabbit who brews ale for gentlemen.

<i>The Tale of Pigling Bland</i> 1913 childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Pigling Bland is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1913. The story describes the adventures of the pig of the title and how his life changes upon meeting a soulmate, in much the same way that Potter's life was changing at the time the book was published.

Alfred Ernest Walter George Aris, FZS, SGA, also known by the pen names Robin A Hood and Dan Crow, (1882–1963), was a writer and illustrator of children's books. He worked on more than 170 publications. Ernest Aris also designed cigarette cards, postcards, toys and games.

<i>The Sly Old Cat</i> Childrens book by Beatrix Potter

The Sly Old Cat is a children's book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter in 1906, and first published by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1971, almost thirty years after her death. The story tells of a cat who invites a rat to a tea party with the intention of eating him, but the rat outwits her and leaves the party with a muffin in a paper bag.


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