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The story of the naughty Peter Rabbit and his adventure in Mr McGregor's garden,
was the first of Beatrix Potter's books to be published, in 1902, by Frederick Warne.
The book was an expansion of the original letter to Noel Moore, with black and white
drawings and was refused by several publishers. Finally, Beatrix had the book printed
herself, and gave it to her family and friends. Frederick Warne saw the book and
agreed to publish it if Beatrix would replace the black and white images with colour
sketches. This was to be the birth of a legend.
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In 1901, while holidaying near Derwentwater in the Lake District, Beatrix wrote
a letter to Norah Moore, sister of Noel, describing the Squirrels she saw daily.
This letter eventually developed into the story of the cheeky squirrel, who dared
to tease 'Old Brown' the owl, living on an island in the lake.
The Tailor of Gloucester was apparently Beatrix's favourite book. It is based on
a true life story of a tailor in the City of Gloucester whom, leaving a waistcoat
unfinished one Friday evening, was amazed to find it completed when he returned
on Monday morning. In reality, the waistcoat was finished by an assistant, trying
to give his master a helping hand. But in her book, Beatrix replaced the assistant
with talking mice, and to add to the enchantment of the story, had it pass on Christmas
Eve. Originally dedicated to another of the Moore children, it was inscribed; 'To
Freda, because you are fond of fairy tales, and have been ill.'
22 of Beatrix's original drawings from this book may be seen in the Tate Gallery,
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Benjamin is a self-confident little rabbit, the cousin of Peter. Together the couple
get into all sorts of scrapes in Mr McGregor's garden, finally being rescued by
Old Mr Benjamin Bunny, young Benjamin's father.
The original dedication in this book shows the changes that were happening to the
life of its author; 'To W.M.L.W. The little girl with the dolls house'. WMLW was
Winifred Warne, favourite niece of Norman Warne, Beatrix's editor. Beatrix and Norman
were, at this time, becoming close friends, and developing a romantic attachment.
The doll's house in question was, in the story, the home of two dolls, Lucinda and
Jane, who were troubled by the 'Two Bad Mice', Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca.
Many of Beatrix Potter's books were based on the numerous pets she had kept during
her life. Although she did, at one time, have a pet hedgehog named Mrs Tiggy-Winkle,
the character in the book is based on an old washerwoman in the village of Sawrey,
Mrs Kitty MacDonald. The young girl in the story, Lucy, was Lucy Carr, the daughter
of the vicar of Newlands which is a valley between Derwentwater and Buttermere.
Many of the pictures in the book are beautiful images of the Newlands Valley.
This was one of the first books to show the farmhouse in Sawrey - Hilltop Farm -
later to become Beatrix's home for many years. Starring Ribby the cat and Duchess,
her friend, a small black dog.
The character of Jeremy Fisher, the frog, was first seen in a letter to Noel Moore
in 1894. The book however, was published some 11 years later. It is the story of
Mr Fisher's narrow escape from a hungry trout, which, fortunately, doesn't like
the taste of Mackintoshes.
The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit was first published in the form of a single strip
of card which opened up to tell the story of a naughty, nameless rabbit, who finally
gets his just reward.
Originally published in the same format as The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, The
Story of Miss Moppet was re-published in the standard format in 1916 because the
book shops didn't really like the panoramic format, being too easily damaged. It
tells the story of Miss Moppet, Tom Kitten's sister, and her less than successful
efforts at catching a mouse.
Tom Kitten was a caricature of every naughty little boy. He gets messy, loses his
clothes, and generally gets into lots of mischief with his sisters Moppet and Mittens,
much to the annoyance of his mother, Mrs Tabitha Twitchet. The drawings show Hill
Top farm, the Lake District farm owned by Beatrix Potter, although at the time this
story was written, she wasn't actually living there.
The tale of a rather naive, and not too bright duck, who makes a rather strange
friend, and eventually has to be rescued by Kep. Kep was the farm collie dog, based
on one of Beatrix Potter's own dogs.
First published in 1908 under the title of The Roly-Poly Pudding, it wasn't until
1926 that it was re-published under its current name. Its main character is a disagreeable,
lazy rat, Mr Samuel Whiskers, who, with his wife, Anna Maria, manages to catch Tom
Kitten and very nearly gets to turn him into the 'Roly-Poly Pudding' in question.
Although physically, this book was published relatively early in the series, in
the world of Beatrix Potter, it is much later. Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny are
grown up and Benjamin has married Peter's sister, Flopsy. The story is based around
the daring rescue of Benjamin and Flopsy's children, the Flopsy Bunnies of the title,
from the grasp of Mr McGregor and the pie dish of Mrs McGregor.
This was one of the most popular tales with the inhabitants of the village of Sawrey,
showing many views of the village. The book was set in the village shop, and was
dedicated to John Taylor, husband of the shopkeeper in Sawrey, who apparently spent
a lot of his time in bed, as the dedication reads: 'With very kind regards to old
Mr John Taylor, who methinks might pass as a dormouse! (Three years in bed, and
never a grumble!).'
This book concerns Mrs Tittlemouse, a terribly particular and tidy little dormouse
and several uninvited guests, including Mr Jackson, an ill-mannered toad. The book
has some wonderful drawings of insects and small creatures, and really shows Beatrix's
talent for drawing animals; the picture of Mrs Butterfly is just perfect.
By this time in Beatrix Potter's career, she was becoming famous world-wide, and
this particular book was written with an American audience in mind. There are grey
squirrels (originally introduced into the UK from the USA), chipmunks and a black
bear. By this time in her life, Beatrix was very preoccupied with farming, and this
was the only book she produced during the whole year.
On writing this book, Beatrix Potter claimed to be tired of 'Goody goody books about
nice people'. So, the stars of this book are Mr Tod, a suave and sophisticated,
yet thoroughly nasty fox, and Tommy Brock, a rather disagreeable badger. It tells
the story of the kidnapping of the Flopsy Bunnies, but fortunately, ends happily.
1913 was a very busy year for Beatrix. Preparations for her marriage to William
Heelis, and moving into her new home, meant that she only just managed to finish
this book. Most of the drawings are pen and ink, with just a few in the watercolours
that have become synonymous with her work.
Most of these nursery rhymes had been written many years before, as early as 1893.
The book was left unpublished as Beatrix concentrated on the Peter Rabbit tales,
and it wasn't until 1917, after constantly being badgered by her publisher for a
new book, that Beatrix dusted off these old drawings and finished them off.
This book marks a return to the Lake District, with Johnny Town Mouse accidentally
visiting the countryside. By this time in her life, Beatrix's sight was failing
and she was worried about being able to complete the drawings. However, as can be
seen, she shouldn't have been. They are as beautiful as ever. The story was dedicated
'To Aesop in the shadows', as it was based on one of his fables.
Similar in origins to her first book of nursery rhymes, this second book can trace
its roots back to 1893. Dedicated to 'Little Peter in New Zealand', Peter was the
orphaned son of a casualty of the First World War, nephew of a friend of Beatrix
from New Zealand.
A change from the Lake District settings, this book was based in Devon in southern
England, and was started in 1901 or 1902, during a holiday there. It wasn't to be
finished until nearly thirty years later.
The books described below can not really be considered part of the 'Tales' series.
They were written or illustrated throughout Beatrix Potter's life and show a different
aspect of her life and artistic abilities.
Some of these works were never published during the lifetime of the author, but
can now be found in The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter, published by F Warne and
Even in the early 1890s, long before the publication of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
had sold several pictures for use on greetings cards and as illustrations to other
peoples works. Some time in the early 1890's she set out her own booklet; its theme
was taken from the children's nursery rhyme:
Three little mice sat down to spin,
Pussy passed by and she peeped in.
'What are you at my fine little men?'
'Making coats for gentlemen.'
'Shall I come in and cut your threads?'
'Oh no! Miss Pussy, you'd bite of our heads!'
Each of the six lines was accompanied by its own picture. It was never published
during the author's lifetime. Some of the images were later used in The Tailor of
Gloucester, and these drawings are critically acclaimed as being some of Beatrix
Potter's finest art work
The Sly Old Cat was written in 1906 but was never published. The original manuscript
was given to Nellie Warne, youngest daughter of her publisher.
The drawings were never truly finished and are mainly just pen and ink sketches.
A few pictures show splashes of colour here and there, but the book was never completely
The Fox and the Stork is the story of a tea party between two characters who are
not on the best of terms. The story was written in 1919 and is loosely based on
one of Aesop's Fables. It was never published at the time, as Beatrix's publisher
said of the tale 'It's not Miss Potter, it is Aesop'.
This is another set of six paintings, dating from the early 1890s. There is very
little dialogue, just a few words and the pictures, showing a group of rabbits enjoying
a traditional Christmas.
Copyright (c) Frederick Warne & Co., 2007
Images reproduced by kind permission of Frederick Warne & Co.
© copyright 2006 -
All Rights Reserved
Frederick Warne & Co. is the owner of all rights,
copyrights and trademarks in the Beatrix Potter
character names and illustrations.