English author and illustrator of picture-books for very young, creator of the characters Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and others. Potter's popularity has shown no sign of diminishing since she created the timeless children's books.
Beatrix Potter was born in South Kensington, London, as the only daughter of Rupert Potter, a wealthy rentier. His father's property came from the Lancashire cotton industry as her wife's. Potter spent a sheltered childhood with her brother Bertram, who was five years younger. She amused herself by painting, using specimens from the Natural History Museum or sketching the nature in the Lake District, where the family spent summer holidays. She never went to school, but was taught at home by a governess. As a young woman she still lived at her parent's house. From the age of fifteen until she was past thirty, she recorded her everyday life in her own secret code-writing.
As a writer and artist Potter made her debut in the 1890s when she send to a sick child illustrated animal stories, which found their way to the publisher (Frederick Warne & Company) and made her famous. In 1890 she published under the signature H.B. P. a small book of animal drawings, A HAPPY PAIR, which was accompanied verses by Fredric Weatherley.
In 1893 Potter wrote a letter to a young friend, Noël Moore, which was illustrated with drawings of animals and contained the first version of THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT. The book was privately printed in 1901, and then published by Frederick Warne and Co. Potter and one of the publishers, Norman Warne, engaged in 1905, but he died of leukemia only a month later. Potter turned back to her books as the one creative impulse left to her.
From the 1905 she spent her time on a farm in Sawrey in the Lake District. The following years until 1913 were Potter's most productive. She published a number of children's books with watercolor illustrations, and oversaw the production and design. Later her works created an entire industry around them: pottery, tea-towels, soft toys, cartoon films. Her illustrations usually showed animal characters wearing human clothes but otherwise Potter treated her characters without sentimentality. It was important for her to write the stories both simple and direct, with no attempt to write down to the young listener or reader. When an attempt to issue THE PIE AND THE PATTY PAN and THE ROLY-POLY PUDDING in a larger format did not gain success, the original small format of the book was found best and suitable for small hands.
At the age of 47 Potter married the solicitor William Heelis and stopped gradually writing. They met when she bought Castle Farm, and the purchase had been made through W. Heelis and Sons, an old-established family business. She bought while engaged a larger farmhouse in Sawrey. In 1923 she bought a substantial sheep farm and spent her last 30 years raising Herdwick sheeps. Potter's marriage was happy. She continued the life she loved best as a conservative landowner, solicitor's wife and farmer. Her literary work deteriorated with her eyesight after 1918, diminishing gradually by 1930s. THE TALE OF LITTLE PIG ROBINSON (1930) was the only story of note to appear in her declining years. Potter told her husband little about her life before her marriage. In a letter to a friend a few years before she died, Potter wrote that "I am exceedingly sorry for my husband. You may have noticed I am the stronger half of the pair..."
Potter died in Sawrey, Lancashire on December 22, 1943. Her home in the Lake District is open to the public. She left several thousand acres of land, including Hill Top Farm, the setting of several of her books, to the National Trust. Potter's journal, which she kept from the age of fifteen and which was written in an elaborated code, was deciphered and published in 1964.
Click on the links below to read about some of her works.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
The Tale of Tom Kitten
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse
The Tale of Pigling Bland
The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse