Friday, February 20, 2009

The Beloved Miss Beatrix Potter

The Young Miss Potter
ONCE upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. So begins the delightful story of Peter Rabbit by the equally delightful Miss Beatrix Potter. I can still hear echoes of my mother's voice as she reads this classic tale to me.

Miss Potter was an author, mycologist (study of fungi), and conservationist but best known as the author of children's books.

Have you seen the biographical film Miss Potter with Rene Zellweger and Ewan McGregor? It has to be one of the genuinely best films ever! Renee Zellweger so totally embraces Miss Potter that I am there with her experiencing her world come alive. I love period films, the costumes, locations, every subtle nuance amazes me. After viewing the Lake District one can understand why Miss Potter became an avid conservationist. The story is wonderfully scripted and left me smiling. Isn't this why we go to the movies?

Images of a few of her delightful characters including the mischevious Peter

Miss Potter was born into a privileged household raised by governesses and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and and spent most holidays in Scotland and in the Lake District where she developed a love of landscape, flora and fauna. As a young woman her parents discouraged her intellectual development (bullocks!), but her study and paintings of fungi led her to be widely respected in the field of mycology. In her thirties Miss Potter published the highly successful children's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and became secretly engaged to her publisher, Norman Warne. Unfortunately, this caused a breach with her parents who disapproved of his social status (a tradesman). Alas, Mr. Warne died before the wedding could take place.
The adult Miss Potter

Distraught upon Mr. Warne's death, Miss Potter retreated to her beloved countryside and purchased Hill Top Farm in the Lake District. Quite a feat for a single woman of her day. She began to buy pieces of land under the guidance of local solicitor William Heelis. In 1913 at the age of 47, Miss Potter married Mr. Heelis and moved to Hill Top Farm permanently.

The front door at Hill Top

Tea time at Hill Top
The elder Miss Potter

In her will Miss Potter left nearly everything to her beloved William for his lifetime. She gave her farm and property of four thousand acres to the National Trust that still maintains her little farmhouse, Hill Top as it was when she lived in it.

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