11 Facts About Beatrix Potter, the Creator of Peter Rabbit

Here you'll find information about the life, art and books of Beatrix Potter whose classic children's picture books, most notably The Tale of Peter Rabbit, have delighted generations of young children.

  1. Family – Helen Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866, at 2 Bolton Gardens in South Kensington, London, England, the first child of attorney Rupert Potter and his wife, Helen.  Her brother, Bertram, was born March 14, 1872.
  1. Childhood – As was the custom in many well-to-do households during the Victorian era, the children’s childhood was overseen by a nanny, and, later, a governess. Her childhood was a lonely one, but the family’s three-month summer vacations in Scotland and later, the English Lake District countryside were a time of wonder as Beatrix and her brother roamed the countryside observing the plant and wildlife.
  2. Education – Beatrix and her brother were educated at home until Bertram was 11. At that point, Bertram was sent to boarding school while Beatrix’s education continued at home. Beatrix had a particular interest in literature, art and natural science.  She enjoyed sketching her schoolroom pets, which included mice and a pet rabbit.
  3. Fungi Artist and Researcher – As she grew older, Beatrix Potter developed an interest in mycology, the study of fungi, including mushrooms.  As an adult, she researched, studied and painted fungi in the Lake District, However, she was unable to get her research published because, at that time, women were not accepted in the field of science.
  1. Origin of Peter Rabbit - Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, began as an illustrated story in a letter she wrote to the young son of her former governess and companion, Annie Carter Moore.  The 1893 letter to Noel Moore was sent to him to cheer him up while he was ill.
  2. First Publication Efforts – Eager to use her art ability to gain some financial independence, Potter found some success in having her greeting cards published. Seven years after sending her story to Noel Moore, Beatrix Potter rewrote the story, added black and white illustrations and submitted it to several publishers.  When she couldn’t find a publisher, Potter had 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit privately published.
  1. Frederick Warne Publisher – Shortly thereafter, someone from Frederick Warne Publisher saw the book and, after Potter provided color illustrations, published The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. The company is still the UK publisher of Beatrix Potter’s books.  Beatrix Potter went on to write a series of tales, which became very popular and gave her the financial freedom she craved.
  2. Tragedy– In 1905, at the age of 39, Beatrix Potter became betrothed to her editor, Frederick Warne. However, he died suddenly before they could wed.
  3. Hilltop Farm – Beatirx Potter found consolation in nature. The money she received for her books enabled her to buy Hilltop Farm in the Lake District, although being an unmarried woman, she did not live there fulltime because it was not considered proper.
  4. Marriage - In 1909, Beatrix Potter met solicitor William Heelis while buying Castle Farm across from Hilltop Farm. They married in 1913, when Beatrix was 47 years old and lived in Castle Cottage. Mrs. Heelis relished country life and  became known for raising award-winning Herdwick Sheep and her support for land conservation.
  5. Beatrix Potter’s Legacy – Beatirx Potter died on December 22, 1943 and her husband died two years later. Today, Beatrix Potter’s legacy includes the more than 4,000 acres in England’s Lake District that she donated to the National Trust, which protects land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 23 tales for children, each published as a small children's picture book , as well as an edition titled . Four of the 23 tales - The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies and The Tale of Mr. Tod - have also been published in an edition titled The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit.

    (Sources: Lear, Linda. Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, St. Martin’s Press, 2007; Beatrix Potter’s Letters: A Selection by Judy Taylor, Frederick Warne, Penguin Group, 1989; Taylor, Judy. Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller and Countrywoman, Frederick Warne, Penguin Group, revised edition, 1996; MacDonald, Ruth K. Beatrix Potter, Twayne Publishers, 1986; The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter, Fredrick Warne and Co., Penguin Group, 2006 edition; The Beatrix Potter Society; Beatrix Potter: Victorian Childhood; Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature)

    Additional Resources 

    For quotations from the author and illustrator, read Beatrix Potter Quotes from the About.com Classic Literature site. For a biography, read Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit’s Creator from the About.com Women’s History site. On the same site, you’ll also find the Beatrix Potter Bibliography, which includes a bibliography of books written and/or illustrated by Beatrix Potter, a bibliography of books about Beatrix Potter and a selected list of exhibitions of her drawings.

    For a brief overview of Beatrix Potter as an artist, read Artists in 60 Seconds: Beatrix Potter from the About.com Art History site. For additional sites related to Beatrix Potter’s publisher, exhibitions, the English Lake District and her life, read my Top 10 Online Beatrix Potter Resources, which includes this article and nine other resources.