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An illustrator in watercolors and author of children's books including The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), The Tailor of Gloucester (1903) and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies
(1909), Beatrix Potter became internationally famous for her stories
that 'humanized' animals such as Mrs. Tiggy Winkle, the hedgehog, and
the garden thieving Peter Rabbit.
She was born in South Kensington, London, to wealthy parents, who had
inherited Lancashire cotton industry land. Potter was raised in
London and had a carefree childhood with tutoring from a governess but
no formal schooling. She had obvious talent for drawing, and
spent much time sketching at the Natural History Museum in London or at
the family farm near Sawrey in the Lake District in northern England on
summer holidays with her family. She also had many pets including
rabbits, and from the age of 15 until her mid 30s kept a daily-life
diary that she wrote in special code. It was not deciphered until
many years later.
Her writing and illustration was first introduced to the public in the
1890s when Frederick Warne & Company published a book of her
illustrated animal stories with the title A Happy Pair.
She signed it H.B.P. for her formal name, which was Helen Beatrix
Potter. In 1893, she submitted the first version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit,
and it was privately published in 1901, and then later published by
Frederick Warne & Company. Potter became engaged to Norman
Warne of the publishing family, but he died of leukemia a month after
Her career took off, and she was especially productive between 1905 and
1913. An industry developed around her work including the
creation of cartoon films, pottery, and stuffed toys.
When she was age 47, she married William Heelis, a solicitor, and
increasingly set aside her writing and illustrating, and became a sheep
breeder and advocate for land conservation. The couple had met
when she purchased Castle Farm from his family in Sawrey,
Lancastershire. In 1923, after their marriage, she inherited
substantial land and money from her parents. She used her
inheritance to purchase a sheep farm where, for the next 30 years, she
raised Herdwick sheep. Called Hill Top Farm, it was several
thousand acres, which she willed to the National Trust.
It was said that her "marriage was happy. She continued the life
she loved best - as a conservationist, landowner, solicitor's wife, and
farmer. Her literary work deteriorated with her eyesight after
1918, diminishing gradually by 1930s. Tale of Little Pig Robinson
was the only story of note to appear in her declining years.
Potter told her husband little about her life before her marriage."
She died in Sawrey, England, on December 22, 1943, and her home has since been opened to the public.
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