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The Inspiration that is Miss Potter

bunnykinsplateIn a world that has gone crazy it is refreshing to be taken into the world of Miss Potter. You are left wondering how many tales or adventures of their own Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton Tail went on. The joy of being in a world where each and every character comes to life from the books is an incredible journey. It goes without saying of course that at some time in the day or night your collection springs to life and all these years later they go on journeys of their own and write more tales - with Beatrix Potter capturing every detail. It is 10 PM here right now and I see some movement in my display cabinet... did Cotton Tail just whisper to Mopsy, “ let the show begin”?

From her early days Beatrix Potter was a lady that stood out. Her failure to conform to the norm of the times she lived in made her into the Icon she is today. She did not want to get married before a certain age because society dictated it... she did not want to have to wear dresses... and above all she wanted to work. In those days a lady did not work! Her life story was history in the making and surely a magical one at that. The journey started as a young girl where she pictured all these magical characters doing wonderful things. Later on she put all these images on paper and hence her stories began.

Born into a privileged lifestyle, she was educated by a governess and had little if no contact with other children. Family holidays were spent in the Lake District where she developed her love of landscape, fauna and flora. Although her parents discouraged her intellectual growth it was her study and watercolours of fungi that gained her respect in the field of mycology. As a child she also painted landscapes. As a young girl Beatrix and her brother Bertram kept many pets. Beatrix’s pets were her inspiration and were often the subject of her sketches and paintings and later on they inspired many of the beloved characters in her books.

In her thirties she published her first highly successful children’s book - The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, originally written in a picture letter in 1893 to a little boy who had been ill for quite some time was to be a turning point in her life. In 1901 she privately printed 250 copies just in time for Christmas; these copies sold out at a shilling each, so she had to print another 200 copies two weeks later. These original copies are highly desirable and coveted by collectors today. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published by Frederick Warne and Co in 1902 with an initial 8000 copies and the tale has never been out of print since then.

Her life was full of tragic love; she became engaged to Norman Warne, the publisher of her book. Her secret love affair lead to a huge amount of social problems at the time as he was considered to be below her social standing. Her parents disapproved and alas Warne died before the wedding could take place.

beatrixOn one of her visits to the Lake District she noticed that Hill Top Farm was going to be auctioned off. She approached her publisher to find out if she had enough money to by the farm. He responded ”how many would you like to buy?”. Beatrix Potter had become financially independent of her parents. She continued to purchase more farms eventually owning 15 farms and a total of over 4,000 acres of land in the area.

The life of Beatrix Potter was a story of great sadness and great success so it came as no surprise when in 2006 the Hollywood film version of her life was released. Beatrix remained unmarried until, at the age of 47, she married William Heelis, a solicitor in the Lake District. Love had finally found her and she lived out her life dedicating herself to the ecology and preservation of the Lake District.

In her lifetime she and her imaginary friends gave us 23 published books that have enthralled kids in many languages worldwide. Inspiring many films and animations as well as a ballet it seems that the world is still enthralled by Beatrix and her tales.

beatrix2Beatrix Potter passed away on the 23 December 1943 leaving a substantial part of her estate to the National Trust to be preserved as a green landscape. This area in the Lake District is known to be one of the largest green belts in the UK. Truly a lady ahead of the times, in 1903 she created the first patented soft toy, making Peter Rabbit the oldest licensed soft toy.

The legend started with the publication of her first book over a hundred years ago and in this time the popularity of her stories and characters has grown immeasurably. A woman ahead of her time with great business sense left an astonishing legacy of art, characters, stories and an unspoiled landscape to the world.

I could swear that Peter Rabbit just did his curtain call knowing full well that the world will still be talking about his adventures a hundred years from now. Each and every character did their bit tonight in telling me the tale of the lady who gave them life or was it them that gave her life!


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