Helen Beatrix Potter
(July 28, 1866 – December 22, 1943)
Potter’s artistic and literary interests were deeply influenced by fairies, fairy tales and fantasy. She was a student of the classic fairy tales of Western Europe.
As a way to earn money in the 1890s, Beatrix and her brother began to print Christmas cards of their own design, as well as cards for special occasions. Mice and rabbits were the most frequent subject of her fantasy paintings.
In 1890, the firm of Hildesheimer and Faulkner bought several of her drawings of her rabbit ‘Benjamin Bunny’ to illustrate verses by Frederic Weatherly -titled ‘A Happy Pair’. - In 1893, the same printer bought several more drawings for ‘Weatherly’s Our Dear Relations’
In September 1893, Potter was on holiday at Eastwood in Dunkeld, Perthshire. She had run out of things to say to Noel and so she told him a story about “four little rabbits whose names were ‘Flopsy’,’Mopsy’ , Cottontail and Peter”. It became one of the most famous children’s letters ever written and the basis of Potter’s future career as a writer-artist-storyteller.
In 1900, Potter revised her tale about the four little rabbits, and fashioned a ‘dummy book of it – it has been suggested, in imitation of Helen Bannerman’s 1899 bestseller ‘The Story of Little Black Sambo’ . Unable to find a buyer for the work, she published it for family and friends at her own expense in December 1901.
Potter used many real locations for her book illustrations. -The Tower Bank Arms Near Sawrey appears in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.On 2 October 1902, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published, and was an immediate success.
Working with Norman Warne as her editor, Potter published two or three little books each year: 23 books in all. The last book in this format was Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes in 1922, a collection of favourite rhymes.