Happy birthday Beatrix Potter!

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Beatrix Potter (July 28, 1866–December 22, 1943) was an English author, illustrator, conservationist, and naturalist. She is best known for her childrens books that brought country animals to life, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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Potter was born in Kensington in London, England to Edmund Potter and Helen Leech. Her parents were wealthy, her father a lawyer and her paternal grandfather the owner of the largest calico printing works in England. Potter was mainly educated by three governesses, the last of whom became one of Potter's closest friends and whose children ended up receiving many of Potter's illustrations. Potter had one younger brother. The two children had many pets including mice, rabbits, a hedgehog, and bats. They also kept butterflies and other insects which they studied and drew. Potter was educated privately, as was common for women of the Victorian era in England.

At the age of 14, Potter began to keep a diary that was carefully encoded. Later decoded, the diary offers insight into British society at the time and into Potter's own talent in observing and describing nature. (Image source)

Potter became increasingly interested in the sciences, collecting fossils, entomology (the study of insects), mycology (the study of fungi), and later taxonomy (the grouping of organisms based on shared characteristics).

Potter was deeply influenced by fairytales and fantasies, and specifically by the Brothers Grimm stories, The Water Babies by Reverend Charles Kingsley, and the stories by Hans Christian Andersen.

Whenever she went on vacation, she would send letters with sketches back to her young friend, especially to the children of her last governess, Annie Carter Moore. In one letter, she told the story of "four little rabbits named Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter." In 1902, after some reworking, the story was published by Frederick Warne & Co. It was an immediate hit.

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The following year, Potter's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester were published, also products of letter she had sent to Moore's children. Potter went on to publish a few books a year for a total of 23 books.

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Not only was Potter an excellent storyteller and illustrator, but she was also a shrewd businesswoman. By 1903, she had already patented a Peter Rabbit doll. It and other spin-off merchandise served as a second source of income, though she was already making a substantial amount through her publisher.

Outside of her books, Potter became a prize-winning sheep breeder and a proponent of land conservation.

Later in her life, she continued to write and illustrate stories. In the late 1920s, she completed the semi-autobiographical series The Fairy Caravan. The series was published in the U.S. only during her lifetime, but was published in the United Kingdom in 1952.

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Potter left almost all of her work to the National Trust.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 28 July 2014
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