Beatrix Potter

The Published Writing of Beatrix Potter


The Tale of Peter Rabbit - 1902
BOOK JACKET:The Tale of Peter Rabbit - 1902

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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The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin - 1903
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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.

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The Tailor of Gloucester - 1903
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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, London.

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The Tale of Benjamin Bunny - 1904
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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.

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The Tale of Two Bad Mice - 1904
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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.

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The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle - 1905
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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.

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The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan - 1905
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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.

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The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher - 1905
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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.

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The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit - 1906
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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.

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The Story of Miss Moppet - 1906
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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.

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The Tale of Tom Kitten - 1907
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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.

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The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck - 1908
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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.

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The Tale of Samuel Whiskers (or The Roly-Poly Pudding) - 1908
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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.

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The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies - 1909
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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.

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The Tale of Ginger and Pickles - 1909
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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!).'

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The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse - 1910
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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.

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The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes - 1911
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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.

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The Tale of Mr Tod - 1912
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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.

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The Tale of Pigling Bland - 1913
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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.

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Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes - 1917
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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.

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The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse - 1918
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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.

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Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes - 1922
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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.

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The Tale of Little Pig Robinson-1930
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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.

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Other Books

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 Co.

  • Three Little Mice

    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

    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 finished

  • The Fox and the Stork

    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'.

  • The Rabbits' Christmas Party

    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.



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