Beatrix Potter Biography & Facts
Helen Beatrix Potter (, 28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist. She is best known for her children's books featuring animals, such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which was her first published work in 1902. Potter was also a pioneer of merchandising—in 1903, Peter Rabbit was the first fictional character to be made into a patented stuffed toy, making him the oldest licensed character.Born into an upper-middle-class household, Potter was educated by governesses and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and spent holidays in Scotland and the Lake District, developing a love of landscape, flora and fauna, all of which she closely observed and painted. Potter's study and watercolours of fungi led to her being widely respected in the field of mycology. In her thirties, Potter self-published the highly successful children's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Following this, Potter began writing and illustrating children's books full-time.
Potter wrote over 60 books; the best known being her twenty-three children's tales. With the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, in 1905 Potter bought Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, a village in the Lake District, in the county of Cumbria (then Lancashire). Over the following decades, she purchased additional farms to preserve the unique hill country landscape. In 1913, at the age of 47, she married William Heelis, a respected local solicitor from Hawkshead. Potter was also a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a prosperous farmer keenly interested in land preservation. She continued to write and illustrate, and to design spin-off merchandise based on her children's books for British publisher Warne until the duties of land management and her diminishing eyesight made it difficult to continue.
Potter died of pneumonia and heart disease on 22 December 1943 at her home in Near Sawrey at the age of 77, leaving almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now constitutes the Lake District National Park. Potter's books continue to sell throughout the world in many languages with her stories being retold in songs, films, ballet, and animations, and her life is depicted in two films and a television series.
Potter's family on both sides were from the Manchester area. They were English Unitarians, associated with dissenting Protestant congregations, influential in 19th century England, that affirmed the oneness of God and that rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. Potter's paternal grandfather, Edmund Potter, from Glossop in Derbyshire, owned what was then the largest calico printing works in England, and later served as a Member of Parliament.Potter's father, Rupert William Potter (1832–1914), was educated at Manchester College by the Unitarian philosopher James Martineau. He then trained as a barrister in London. Rupert practised law, specialising in equity law and conveyancing. He married Helen Leech (1839–1932) on 8 August 1863 at Hyde Unitarian Chapel, Gee Cross. Helen was the daughter of Jane Ashton (1806–1884) and John Leech, a wealthy cotton merchant and shipbuilder from Stalybridge. Helen's first cousins were siblings Harriet Lupton (née Ashton) and Thomas Ashton, 1st Baron Ashton of Hyde. It was reported in July 2014 that Potter had personally given a number of her own original hand-painted illustrations to the two daughters of Arthur and Harriet Lupton, who were cousins to both Beatrix Potter and Catherine, Princess of Wales.Potter's parents lived comfortably at 2 Bolton Gardens, West Brompton, where Helen Beatrix was born on 28 July 1866 and her brother Walter Bertram on 14 March 1872. The house was destroyed in the Blitz. Bousfield Primary School now stands where the house once was. A blue plaque on the school building testifies to the former site of the Potter home. Both parents were artistically talented, and Rupert was an adept amateur photographer. Rupert had invested in the stock market, and by the early 1890s, he was extremely wealthy.Beatrix Potter was educated by three governesses, the last of whom was Annie Moore (née Carter), just three years older than Potter, who tutored Potter in German as well as acting as lady's companion. She and Potter remained friends throughout their lives, and Annie's eight children were the recipients of many of Potter's picture letters. It was Annie who later suggested that these letters might make good children's books.She and her younger brother Walter Bertram (1872–1918) grew up with few friends outside their large extended family. Her parents were artistic, interested in nature, and enjoyed the countryside. As children, Potter and Bertram had numerous small animals as pets which they observed closely and drew endlessly. In their schoolroom, Potter and Bertram kept a variety of small pets—mice, rabbits, a hedgehog and some bats, along with collections of butterflies and other insects—which they drew and studied. Potter was devoted to the care of her small animals, often taking them with her on long holidays. In most of the first fifteen years of her life, Potter spent summer holidays at Dalguise, an estate on the River Tay in Perthshire, Scotland. There she sketched and explored an area that nourished her imagination and her observation. Her first sketchbook from those holidays, kept at age 8, and dated 1875, is held at and has been digitised by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Potter and her brother were allowed great freedom in the country, and both children became adept students of natural history. In 1882, when Dalguise was no longer available, the Potters took their first summer holiday in the Lake District, at Wray Castle near Lake Windermere. Here Potter met Hardwicke Rawnsley, vicar of Wray and later the founding secretary of the National Trust, whose interest in the countryside and country life inspired the same in Potter and who was to have a lasting impact on her life.At about the age of 14, Potter began to keep a diary. It was written in a code of her own devising which was a simple letter for letter substitution. Her Journal was important to the development of her creativity, serving as both sketchbook and literary experiment: in tiny handwriting, she reported on society, recorded her impressions of art and artists, recounted stories and observed life around her. The Journal, decoded and transcribed by Leslie Linder in 1958, does not provide an intimate record of her personal life, but it is an invaluable source for understanding a vibrant part of British society in the late 19th century. It describes Potter's maturing artistic and intellectual interests, her often amusing insights into the places she visited, and her unusual ability to observe nature and to describe it. Started in 1881, her journal ends in 1897 when her artistic and intellectual energies were abs.... Discover the Beatrix Potter popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Beatrix Potter books.