Beatrix Potter was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which celebrated the British landscape and country life.
Beatrix Potter short biography
Born Helen Beatrix Potter on July 28, 1866, in London, England, Beatrix Potter is one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time. She was the daughter of Rupert and Helen Potter, both of whom had artistic interests. Her father trained as a lawyer, but he actually practiced. Instead he devoted himself to photography and art. Her mother Helen was skilled at embroidery and watercolors. Beatrix got to know several influential artists and writers through her parents, including painter John Everett Millais.
Potter, along with her young brother Bertram, developed an interest in nature and animals at an early age. The pair often roamed the countryside during family vacations to Scotland and England’s Lake District. Potter demonstrated a talent for sketching as a child with animals being one of her favorite subjects. In the late 1870s, she began studying at the National Art Training School.
Potter first tasted success as an illustrator, selling some of her work to be used for greeting cards. One of her most famous works, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, started out as a story she wrote for the children of a former governess in a letter. Potter later transformed this letter into a book, which she published privately.
In 1902, Frederick Warne & Co. brought this delightful story to the public. Their new edition of The Tale Of Peter Rabbit quickly became a hit with young readers. More animal adventures soon followed with The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903) and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904) among other stories. Norman Warne worked as her editor on many of these early titles.
Potter suffered a great personal loss in 1905 when Norman Warne died. He passed away just weeks after he proposed to her. Her parents, however, had objected to the match. She bought Hill Top Farm in the Lake District that same year and there she wrote such books as The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907) and The Tale of Samuel Whiskers (1908).
In 1913, Potter married local lawyer William Heelis. She only produced a few more books after tying the knot. Potter published The Fairy Caravan in 1926, but only in the United States. She thought the book was too autobiographical to be released in England. The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930) proved to be her final children’s book.
Instead of writing, Potter focused much of her attention on her farms and land preservation in the Lake District. She was a successful breeder of sheep and well regarded for her work to protect the beautiful countryside she adored.
Potter died of complications from pneumonia and heart disease on 22 December 1943 at Castle Cottage. She left nearly all her property to the National Trust, including over 4,000 acres (16 km2) of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep. Hers was the largest gift at that time to the National Trust and it enabled the preservation of the lands now included in the Lake District National Park and the continuation of fell farming. The central office of the National Trust in Swindon was named “Heelis” in 2005 in her memory.