We still sell piles of her books more than 70 years after her death. Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) does not seem to be going out of fashion. Did you know her most iconic character, Peter Rabbit, was named after a real-life beloved pet rabbit?
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was Potter’s first and most famous story. It was inspired in 1893 when Potter wrote a letter to Noel Moore, the ill child of her former governess. The letter described four rabbits – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter, and their mother. She illustrated the letter with sketches. The boy loved the letter and asked for more stories.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1902. Potter’s next two books were The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester.
10 facts you didn’t know about Beatrix Potter
1) Her middle name was Helen.
2) At age 15, Potter kept a diary written in her own secret language and code. It was so secret, in fact, that adult Beatrix had difficulty deciphering the code in later years.
3) Beyond the real Peter Rabbit, other Potter pets included a tortoise, two lizards, some water newts, a snake and a green frog.
4) While Potter seemed very fond of children – writing them letters, drawing them pictures and the like – she never had any of her own.
5) Potter’s art was not limited to children’s illustrations – she also had a gift for botanical art, particularly fungus and lichen, which she drew in accurate detail.
6) Potter’s first engagement, to her editor Norman Warne in 1905, ended tragically when he died suddenly of pernicious anemia.
7) In the last decades of her life, Potter became a Lakeland farmer, winning awards for her prize Herdwick sheep.
8) Several of her books, including The Tale of Tom Kitten, take place at Hill Top, which was the second farm Potter purchased.
9) At the time of her death in 1943, Potter owned 14 farms, over 4,000 acres of land, and substantial numbers of the aforementioned Herdwick sheep, all of which she left to the National Trust so that others might enjoy the same rural life style.
10) Potter’s illustrations, stories and contributions to children have left such a mark on the world that there are attractions in her memory, including ‘The World of Beatrix Potter’ attraction in Cumbria, as well as her home at Hill Top and a Beatrix Potter gallery.