Lit Loves: The Truly Fascinating Beatrix Potter

Image via Whimsical Words

Literary lady Helen Beatrix Potter is well known for her whimsical children’s books, most notably The Tale of Peter Rabbit. As a woman writer in Victorian England, Potter was initially met with controversy during her attempts to share her stories. It took six rejections from publishers before Peter’s adventures saw the light of day. Once the public was introduced to the mischievous little fellow, though, there was no going back.

Image via Kirkland Books

After Peter’s debut in 1902, 23 “little Tales” — featuring more bunnies, mice, ducks, kittens, hedgehogs, and squirrels — quickly followed suit. And now, more than a century later, Potter is a household name that currently sells four books a minute according to her original publisher, Frederick Warne & Co.

Image via Ephemeralist

Potter’s love for animals began in childhood, when she would sketch and draw all manner of creatures, as well as house them. As an adult, the self-taught artist painted watercolors and illustrated letters to the children of her friends with the precursors to her characters. The Morgan Library Online Exhibitions has a wonderful overview of these illustrations.

'No More Twist' circa 1902 by Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943
Image via Tate

It wasn’t all child’s play for Potter, though. She was a keen naturalist, too. Her admiration for the natural world led to many studies, sketches, and paintings of related subjects. Potter’s artworks of all kinds may now be found in coveted collections, including that of the Tate.

Image via Victoria and Albert Museum

Aside being an artist and an author, Potter was also a conservationist, leaving more than 4,000 acres of land to the United Kingdom’s National Trust when she passed. Potter is even less recognized for her scientific inclinations. Toward the turn of the 19th century, Potter wrote a paper on fungi that was read at The Linnean Society of London (not by her, as women were not allowed to attend the meetings). Just like it was with her children’s books, trying to gain a serious audience as an amateur female scientist was challenging.

Potter helped to pave the way for female voices in predominantly male spheres; provided us with dear Peter Rabbit and co.; and left us with lovely, enduring artworks. We adore Miss Potter and all of her many accomplishments!

What was your favorite Beatrix Potter book as a child?

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1 Comment

  1. Dawn Brundige 07/29/2014 at 4:16 pm #

    My favorite was The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. I just loved how kind she was to the neighbours. I used to visit the lake district every summer as a child. Visiting her museum and shop were the highlights of my trips!

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