Peter Rabbit, the adorable bunny in the blue jacket, is a familiar character to us bookworms. You might have learned of his mishaps when Grandma read them to you; perhaps you got to know him better when reading to your children.
He brings to mind youth and innocence, reminding us of how it felt to be a child willing to think outside of the box. How much do we know about the woman behind the rabbit?
Beatrix Potter wrote many stories aside from The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Not only did she come up with charming animals and their adventures, she also illustrated them. The stories might have deprived her of some things, though. Potter didn’t have a conventional love story, but she had a happy ending.
Here are five inspiriing facts about Beatrix Potter.
Peter Was A Real Bunny
Have you ever written a story in which someone special made a cameo appearance as a character? Beatrix Potter did this with her bunny, Peter Piper! He was her close friend, traveling everywhere with her. Eventually he became famous as a protagonist in one of the most beloved childrens’ tales.
The first story featuring Peter Rabbit was written in a letter to the son of Potter’s former governess. The young boy was ill. She wanted to make him feel better, but suffered from writer’s block; she did not know what to say.
It is said that she was sitting in the yard with her bunny when composing this letter. Deciding to tell a story instead, she made up the adventure of Peter with his sisters Mopsy, Flopsy, and Cottontail. The rest is history.
She Fell In Love With Her Editor
Beatrix Potter had a tragic first romance. She had taken her stories to a publishing company called Bedford. The company was run by a father and his three sons—Harold, Fruing and Norman.
Norman was the editor. Some have described it as love at first sight: Beatrix, an intelligent woman, admired Norman for his mind. He must have enjoyed meeting a woman he could hold a real conversation with. It was not long before he had proposed to her.
Unfortunately, Norman became ill. Beatrix had gone on holiday with her family when he was diagnosed with leukemia and died. Beatrix did not find out until after her return. He refused to write of it because he did not want to distress her.
One must wonder if Beatrix’s parents were sad—they did not approve of the match.
She Had An Excellent Education
Beatrix Potter had an excellent mind and was able to hold conversations about science, history, and other subjects considered unladylike at the time. Where did she learn about the biology of a bunny? How did she draw such realistic pictures?
She was born into a wealthy family in which both parents were heirs to cotton fortunes (hence their disapproval of her match with Norman). Her father took great interest in painting and photography. He taught his daughter to draw, and they shared a love for art.
Beatrix had access to her father’s library of books, where she was free to learn about science, voyages, historical figures, and other unladylike topics. She later tried to enter the science circles of the time, but they were too superstitious to let a woman into their chambers.
The Science Book
It would be wrong not to elaborate on how gifted Beatrix Potter was on the subject of science. Her understanding of nature was so advanced that she was able to make remarkably detailed illustrations of fungi and insects for the time.
Though Beatrix also drew animals, she focused on wild fungi. She completed a book of illustrations and presented it to the male-dominated science circles. The drawings were outstanding, but she was a woman. She didn’t have much of a chance at becoming a scientist.
Now her images of fungi are lauded by modern science, but in her own time Beatrix Potter gave up that dream and moved on to storytelling. Perhaps we can be grateful for this—if she had become a scientist, Peter Rabbit might never have existed.
Happily Ever After
Beatrix Potter finally found found love at the age of 47. She married a solicitor named William Heelis in 1913, and they moved to the beautiful Lake District. She and William lived a comfortable life in their secluded house, where they grew old together.
Beatrix purchased a farm where she could interact with the animals. Though the Lake District had no shortage of inspiration, it seems that Potter had become tired of writing. When at last she married, she favored a peaceful life exploring the country.
When Beatrix Potter died, her body was cremated. She told a trusted groundskeeper to release her ashes at an unmarked spot in her beloved Lake District. To this day, no one knows the location of her remains. We can still find her in the stories she wrote.
My inspiration for writing about Beatrix Potter hinges largely on my sudden obsession with drawing mice and frogs. I don’t know where I’m going with this hobby; am I simply procrastinating writing? I do enjoy learning new things, and it’s good for the creative to try all sorts of mediums.
Beatrix Potter is one of my inspirations for my nature-based art. I have no illusions of drawing like she did, but Peter Rabbit is alive in all of us. I hope you have a good Friday!
As an added bonus, here’s an excerpt from my lately well-loved sketchbook!