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Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter was a British writer and illustrator who produced over 28 books that were produced all over the world. In Kensington, London on July 28, 1866, Potter was born into a wealthy family with the lonely life of a privileged girl. Her Scottish governess told her tales of fairies, princes and other fables, beginning her love for fantasy. As a girl, Beatrix Potter drew every animal and plant that she could, and would spend hours sketching. In 1878, she began drawing lessons and went to the National Art Training School in South Kensington for a few years, but did not enjoy it. This was the extent of her education as she was convinced that “it would have rubbed off some of the originality” of her style. At 19, she took up watercolor and perfected her dry brush skills.

In her 20’s, she developed into a talented naturalist, drawing with her eye to a microscope, with minute details of a bird's wing or beetle. She earned commissions from greeting card companies, but it wasn’t until her creation of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902 that she was recognized for her incredible talent. Created from a letter sent to her old governess’ children, Peter Rabbit was born and became the first of her bestselling books. She insisted on the book’s small size (so little hands could hold them) and on full participation in all of the negotiations with every detail of the book. Publishing houses rejected her story a few times but she relented and decided to self-publish, selling them to local businesses and neighbors. Frederick Warne & Company was one of the initial companies to reject her print, but with the encouragement from Norman Warne, the editor, they started to produce it, with the first batch selling out before it was officially produced. There were multiple editions to keep up with the demand and soon Beatrix Potter was independently wealthy. Within the next three years, Beatrix produced four additional little books.

From this business association, Beatrix Potter met Norman Warne whom she fell in love with. They were engaged in 1905, despite her parents’ objections. Unfortunately, leukemia took his life only a month after the proposal, though it did not stop Potter from continuing with their plans to purchase Hill Top Farm in Sawrey around the Lake District. Since society deemed it inappropriate for women of this time to live alone, Potter was unable to live there continuously but she spent as much time there as she could when not with her parents. She learned the trade of being a farmer while still publishing two more books a year for the next eight years. In this time, she purchased another farm near her Hill Top Farm in 1909 where she met and wed William Heelis. This marriage, despite it being once again against her family’s wishes due to his lower station, enabled her to live at her farm full time and concentrate on farming. She became an expert in sheep breeding and continued to write and illustrate until her eyesight began to fade. Her last publication in 1930, The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, was thirteen years prior to her death.

Throughout her life, she had a love of land and conservation and had collected fourteen farms and over 4000 acres of property near the Lake District. Upon her death on December 22, 1943, she bequeathed the entirety of her estate to the National Trust to conserve the natural beauty of the land.

"Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality." - Beatrix Potter

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