The World of Beatrix Potter

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but it is terribly muggy here.  I want to like summer, I do, but I hate heat.  I dream about a warm summer that feels more like spring, full of beautiful flowers and plants and trees that somehow do not make me sneeze.  I want to live in a Beatrix Potter book.

I have a couple of books to show you today.  The first is from the library, and I'll just give you a little peek. It's called At Home With Beatrix Potter, and it's a pictorial tour of Potter's Hill Top Farm, which she bought it 1905.

At Home With Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit by Susan Denyer.
Frances Lincoln Publishers, 2009.

I did not know this, but Potter never really lived at Hill Top Farm.  For a long time, her mother kept her busy in London, then after Potter married her attorney, William Heelis, they moved into the house at Castle Farm, a neighboring farm she bought a few years before the marriage.  Potter, however, had long planned her ideal home and its decor, drawing from sketches and memories she had of favorite country spaces she had visited over the years. Hill Top was the place where she would receive guests, including tourists looking for Peter Rabbit, and where she often worked.  Potter was an avid conservationist, and bought many farm properties which were conveyed to the National Trust after her death.  The book is lovely, with pictures from Hill Top and the Lake District, along with Potter's paintings and illustrations, most inspired by the area.

The second book I want to show off is the one I'm really excited about. I ordered it as a summer treat to myself, as I haven't bought a book to keep in a little while.  It's Beatrix Potter: A Journal, one of those enchanting interactive books like the one I featured here, or the Dragonology or Egyptology books.

Beatrix Potter: A Journal, "a work of fiction based on Beatrix Potter's journal and letters."
Frederick Warne & Co, a division of Penguin Books, 2006.

The book is full of photographs, illustrations, and very cool things to explore, such as the little photo album you see in the above picture.  Here it is close up:

It follows her early life, such as her bouts with illness, the animals in her life, holidays with the family.  We glimpse her early career as the illustrator of Christmas cards.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit came about via a letter she wrote to the ailing child of her former governess.  There is an envelope, bearing a reproduction of that letter.

Potter's visits to the Lake District and purchase of Hill Top farm are recorded, with an attached map.

She could not find a publisher for Peter Rabbit, which she insisted be printed in a small format.  She published the book herself, independently, in black and white.  The book did surprisingly well, and friends urged her to try once more to find a real publisher. Frederick Warne was now interested, and willing to put the book out in her preferred "little" format, but they wanted color. Norman Warne, the youngest partner in the company, worked with Beatrix in making sure the new three-color printing process captured the colors to her satisfaction.

The book was a major success, and two more books followed the very next year, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and my favorite Potter book, The Tailor of Gloucester.

At the age of 39, Beatrix Potter was considered an "old maid," but she fell in love and accepted the proposal of Norman Warne.  Her parents did not approve, and the couple agreed to keep the engagement a secret for six months, as her parents hoped she would change her mind.  She proceeded on holiday with her parents, only to receive word that Warne was terribly ill.  He died of a sudden, rapid-killing case of leukemia before she could see him.

The "journal" concludes with Beatrix Potter explaining how she began to spend more time at her Lake District farm, which leads to more time spent in the company of her attorney, William Heelis.  Finally, she marries Heelis, and most of her time is now spent managing her vast country properties.

There is one final treat at the back of the book.  I almost missed this!

I pulled the little gold ribbon tab, and out popped a little facsimile edition of the independently-published, black and white edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit!

I must confess, I've been on a bit of a Beatrix Potter kick the last few days.  Saturday night, the family snuggled in with popcorn and watched the movie Miss Potter on Amazon Prime.

It isn't perfect, but it's sweet and charming, and led to me getting out the old Beatrix Potter treasury I've had since my grade school years.  Big Sis ripped the dust jacket into three pieces when she was little, and I admit, I've had the book put up out of reach ever since.

I also checked out a hefty biography called Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, which I hope to get to soon, although my stack of library books is starting to totter steeply.

In gathering links for this post, I found a treasure trove of Beatrix Potter sites to explore.

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  1. want to hate me?? (please don't!) I've been to her house in England! When I was 18. I can't remember it well at all!!!!!! You and me, we need to go someday!!! or it was supposedly her house, maybe they were making that up?

    Anyway....this is simply marvelous, loved all this info about her and HOW SAD about her fiance! What a great kick to be into, a Beatrix fest, I love it!!!!

    1. It's fun! Did you know she loved Americans? The American tourists who would come to Hill Top looking for her were her favorites. She said she felt very relaxed in their company, and her last couple of books were published only in the U.S.! I thought that was interesting. I've been to London a couple of times, but honestly, it was with tour groups in high school, so I would very much like to visit England on my own terms someday.

      I guess the house at Hill Top was very important to her as an Arts & Crafts movement showcase and a place for tourists and reporters and the like to see. After her death, she specified that certain things be moved from her larger house at Castle Farm to Hill Top, and after that, Hill Top was to remain exactly how it was. She definitely cared about her overall legacy! It's amazing how much property she accumulated, all for the sake of preserving it, keeping the countryside out of the hands of developers.

    2. I found in my home library shelves (that someone long ago gave me) a book about Beatrix' life that I had never to go read it!!

    3. Oh, very cool! I love it when that happens. :)

  2. Lovely!!! And that is a treat of a surprise at the end!

    1. The little book disappeared for a while yesterday! My littlest took off with it. They still have their own little color copy of Peter Rabbit, but this one was special. We found it late last night. :)

  3. How neat!!! Can't wait to take a look at these books! I've wanted to go to Hill Top FOREVER. ;)

  4. Oh I bought the Beatrix Potter Journal and it is such a book to treasure! So many lovely details and an abundance of anecdotes! I didn't know the story about her Hill Top house! She is a brilliant woman! I do love how she preserved all the land. We need more people like her in this world! And I really have to watch that movie one day!

    1. Isn't it a gorgeous book? I love it. I think you'd like the movie. You can find the DVD in bargain bins these days... ;)

  5. Hello. I found your site as a result of some research I was doing for my own blog site. I hope to do a post on cottages with a lead in about Beatrix Potter. My adult sons loved Beatrix Potter almost as much as their mom and now I'm sharing my collection of her books with my granddaughter. I love this post, thank you for sharing. I wasn't aware of either of these books and will have to visit my library for a in depth look.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! I introduced my daughters to Beatrix Potter's books when they were too small to appreciate them, then our "little books" got scattered to the wind, and my big treasury got put up in a panic when it was torn... In other words, I'm just now getting around to properly introducing them to the stories, and they're going into 1st and 3rd grade! I'm sad I waited so long...

  6. Lovely!!! What a treat these books are! I love Beatrix Potter's stories, even though we have very few of them and they aren't very well-known in Greece (I don't think they've been translated either). I do want to read more of them, and then introduce them to the girls -so far, Stavroula's favorite is the story of Benjamin Bunny. We also loved the ballet (I think it was done by the Royal Opera House) where everybody was dressed up as animals and they danced some of the stories beautifully!!

    1. Benjamin Bunny was my first Beatrix Potter book, a gift from my godparents, so it holds a special place in my heart. The ballet sounds wonderful!


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