Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Famous Birthdays - Beatrix Potter

Chances are, when you were little, someone read to you the Tales of Peter Rabbit amongst other Beatrix Potter books. But how much do you know about the author?

Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866 in South Kensington England. She was the only daughter of heirs to a cotton fortune and lived a quiet and solitary childhood. As was customary among monied society back then she was primarily cared for by a nurse or nanny. Little Beatrix would kiss her parents goodnight and see them perhaps in the morning. But the majority of the time was spent attended by the hired help. When Beatrix turned 6 her mother had another child. Beatrix's little brother was called Bertram. They were homeschooled and raised together by nannies and governesses. When Bertram was old enough he left for boarding school as was customary then while Beatrix remained behind to continue her education with a succession of various governesses. The children would go on long summer vacations, usually to Scotland where she discovered her deep love for nature. Beatrix and Bertram Potter loved to sketch and draw what they observed. Beatrix never lost her love for nature and loved making up stories about the animals she observed. When she was 27 she sent one such illustrated stories to the sick child of one of her former governesses. The story was about four little bunnies. Can you guess the names? They were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and of course the unforgettable Peter. That illustrated story was such a great success that she decided to have it privately published. It was published as The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1900. Two years later is was published commercially by the Frederick Warne & Company followed by 22 additional books over the next 20 years. The books were small, designed to be held by little hands and featured an easy to understand prose.

Beatrix became engaged to Norman Warne (the son of one of her publishers) in 1905 despite parental opposition. After his sudden death a few months later, Beatrix found herself spending much of her time alone at Hill Top, a small farm in an English Village. She married William Heelis in 1913 and spent the last 30 years of her life breeding Herdwick Sheep and illustrating and writing her books. Upon her death on December 22, 1943 she bequeathed the farm to the National Trust. The farm is still as it was when she lived in it.

Sources: Wikipedia and (a lovely site)


Eva said...

Thanks for sharing this. My first grader has just started reading some Beatrix Potter. I wasn't familiar with her books until I came to the U.S.

Marlis said...

You are welcome. I try to post some interesting 'Famous Birthdays' of people our kids and times our children might find interesting. I love Beatrix Potter. There is another nature artist I love. Her name is Marjolein Bastin. She is a Dutch artist with an eye for nature that rivals that of Beatrix Potters'. I am sure your son, the artist, would absolutely adore her work. You should check out her website.

Captain January said...

Thanks for this post, I love Beatrix Potter!

Eva said...

I know Marjolein Bastin and used to have stationery by her. She draws beautiful pictures. I don't think my son is familiar with her because you don't see her artwork around so much anymore. Thanks for the tip.