Beatrix Potter: Not Just an Author of Children's Stories
Helen Beatrix Potter was born at No 2, Bolton Gardens, South Kensington, Middlesex (now in Greater London), England on July 28, 1866. She was the only daughter of a well-to-do London family, and her parents were heirs to a cotton fortune . Her family was a typical Victorian family, living in a large house with several servants. Beatrix's younger brother, Bertram, was born when she was six years old, and the children were schooled at home by a governess until Bertram was old enough to attend school. Beatrix stayed home and was cared for by a string of governesses who encouraged her to read and write, and introduced her to music and art .
Beatrix spent much of her childhood in solitude, only seeing her parents at bedtime and on special occasions. From a young age, Beatrix was fascinated by nature. Her family went on annual summer holidays in Scotland and the Lake District. It was here that she and Bertram collected animals, skeletons, and fossils together. They sketched and painted pictures of the plants and animals they saw, and often went to the Natural History Museum to learn more. As they traveled the countryside, Beatrix gained not only first-hand experience, but also a deep love and knowledge of the countryside. It was this combination that makes her books so special .
Although her parents were a bit overprotective and discouraged her from forming friendships with other children, Beatrix always had her brother for company, not to mention a whole menagerie of pets. The children kept the pets in their schoolroom, and carefully studied and drew them. Almost all of Beatrix's famous characters from her books are based on pets she had. For example, Benjamin Bunny was based on Beatrix's first pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer .
While in her early twenties, Beatrix made a minor scientific discovery in regards to the "spores of moulds". Because she was self-taught, her work was under suspicion by botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens. After much persistence, she wrote a paper on the subject, which was read before the Linnean Society of London. Because women were not allowed to attend meetings, Beatrix herself did not get to read the paper before the Society, but her discovery and theories did eventually prove to be correct .
On September 4, 1893, Beatrix wrote a picture letter to Noel Moore, the five-year old son of an ex-governess. The boy was ill in bed, and because Beatrix did not know what to write to him, she proceeded to tell him a story about four little rabbits. Years later, Beatrix decided to publish the story as a book, but it was rejected by every publisher she sent it to. Beatrix printed the book herself as a privately-published edition. Frederick Warne then agreed to publish the book in 1902. The book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, became one of the most famous stories ever written....