The Christmas tree is up and as I peruse ornaments collected over decades, I’m struck by how many of them are animals. There are cats and dogs, rabbits and squirrels, hedgehogs and birds (a humming bird, blue jay, goose, partridge), and cows and horses. At the back door, I struggle with getting sunflower seeds and nuts out for my squirrels. Three inches of snow have to be cleared before I can lay down six piles of seed to accommodate the squirrels. After our dog died, we started feeding birds off our deck but soon found the squirrels to be more entertaining. The birds still come to the feeder and the overflow trickles down to feed a family of field mice who will come onto the deck once the squirrels have had their fill. I won’t see the bunny today because the storm is intensifying but I take comfort that I’ll see him tomorrow once the snow melts off. He was here earlier though; because I see his tracks crisscross the yard. The ornaments on the Christmas tree and the activity in the backyard scream BEATRIX POTTER. I live in a world she knew.

Beatrix Potter

Helen Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 in London. She is best remembered for her children’s stories featuring animals. As children, she and her brother spent many happy family vacations in Scotland and the English Lake District. Undoubtedly, the freedom to explore and interact with nature as a child grounded Beatrix in the natural world and fostered her connection to the land and its creatures. She and her brother made pets of wildlife including rabbits, a hedgehog, mice, and bats. Beatrix’s talents in drawing and painting emerged in childhood and were encouraged by her parents. In her teens, she wandered the Lake District sketching and immersing herself in nature. She took a keen interest in archeology, geology, entomology, and mycology. By the late 1890s, she had become adept at scientific illustration concentrating on watercolors of local fungi. She even had a paper on fungi reproduction presented at the Royal Botanic Gardens (women were not allowed to attend).


It wasn’t until her mid- 30s that Beatrix took a set of picture letters she had written to children and turned them into her first book. She had The Tale of Peter Rabbit printed in 1901. Publishers turned down the opportunity to publish the book failing to see its merit (think Harry Potter in the Edwardian Age,  JK Rowling was also turned down by multiple publishers). Along came Frederick Warner who published The Tale of Peter Rabbit with color illustrations the following year. Beatrix’s book was highly successful and so were the two (The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester) that came soon after. From then on, Beatrix published two or three books a year. Later her interests in farming and preserving the Lake District became foremost in her life, but she is still remembered fondly for the animal characters and stories she created.



Miss Potter (2006), the movie with Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor



Filed under animals, Book Review, Books


  1. I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout
    on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one today.

  2. I like the information and comparison of Beatrix Potter and The tale of Peter Rabbit to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s a bit shocking to read now, but remembering that Beatrix Potter was writing for her time, it’s a lot more interesting to read. And the illustrations are amazing too.

  3. Hi Ellis,
    Thanks so much for liking my blog post about Dennis’ e books.
    Your blog is extremely interesting to me. I just read the Beatrix Potter Article because she was one of my earliest and most favorite influences.
    I have read most of her books and have a collection on my shelf that I read and reread.I will; continue to read your blog and follow it. Please become a follower of our blog Two Artists Aloft so you can keep up with what i was doing.
    On the comment reply I received it mentioned you as a writer of YA fiction.
    Are you still doing that?
    Andrea and Dennis

  4. Hello Ellis – Just letting you know I included your link on my new Pinterest board; http://pinterest.com/pin/393290979928830269/ All these boards/blogs are new to me, hopefully I set this up properly. If you find any other happy or poetic blogs about nature, life or just anything pretty, let me know. I would love to add to my ‘blog happy’ Pinterest posts. Best -Kathleen

  5. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  6. T_T – I searched and found it. Thanks for the post. Angelina Logan

  7. I loved the movie depicting her life. Such a pleasant film, and it was great to see her succeed in the male-dominated publishing industry of the time.

  8. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I
    have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  9. Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up
    fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your
    host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  10. How wonderful. Thank you for sharing Beatrice P with all of us.

  11. There is an enlightening comment about Beatrix Potter by the late fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones, who as a child spent time some of the Second World War in the Lake District:
    “We were up near Sawrey, which was a long way for children to walk; but, if the mothers were to go anywhere, they had to walk and the children had to walk with them. No one had a car. Isobel and another four-year-old girl were so tired that, when they found a nice gate, they hooked their feet on it and had a restful swing. An old woman with a sack over her shoulders stormed out of the house and hit both of them for swinging on her gate. This was Beatrix Potter. She hated children, too. I remember the two of them running back to us, bawling with shock. Fate, I always think, seemed determined to thrust a very odd view of authorship on me.”

    The last comment was prompted by her unfortunate experience with Arthur Ransome, and compounded by a disastrous encounter with John Ruskin’s drawings (see http://www.leemac.freeserve.co.uk/autobiog.htm and posthumous ‘Reflections: On the Magic of Writing’). Anyway, it’s not the usual image one has of Miss Potter (or even Renee Zellweger)!

  12. I have a Peter Rabbit money box which my Mom is kind enough to fill with silver coins- and sometimes even a banknote or two… She also reads out of some small BP books to Charlie Chaplin my brother. Charlie loves listening to stories- his ears go back and forth with delight and when he gets bored he gives a HUGE yawn! I myself personally prefer a DVD from the comfort of the couch….

    Merry Christmas!


  13. Lovely post. I, too, enjoy squirrels more than birds. The Lake District is a wonderful place. Beatrix Potter donated the land for the National Trust park. During one year I lived in Leeds, I was able to visit the Lake District several times as I knew someone with a home there. It was heaven!

  14. Hungry little eyes on a cold winter’s day….
    Some peanuts for the squirrels and seed for the birds.
    Our 2 cats love sitting at the window, looking out at all the different critters who come and go.

  15. Kate

    Walking through York the other day with a friend of mine who isn’t from England asked why there was a shop dedicated to the stories and characters of Beatrix Potter suggesting in the rows of quaint little shops it was an oddity.

    I stopped, not quite knowing what to say. “But it’s Peter Rabbit!”

    She was an amazing talented woman.

  16. I love Beatrix Potter. Your story is a wonderful tribute. I love the story behind the story of her bookx.

  17. Years ago we had a Christmas Tree in the sitting room, but our 3 cats had a climbing competition. Pink replaced the fairy with herself. Bamber enjoyed swinging from the tinsel. Alleycat used the baubles as a punch bag.

    • We used to have to tie the tree to the ceiling to prevent the cats from tipping it over because they climbed it. In a cat household, everything belongs to kitty! As they got older, the tree lost its appeal but I still have a cat who eats artificial trees.

  18. I grew up reading Beatrix Potter (or having it read to me) loved this post. Took me right back to my childhood.

  19. I live in Canada and had the pleasure of seeing the museum in The Lake District, it was amazing. We have a museum near here in which they have stuffed gophers and made various scenes, some find it hilarious and others are a bit disturbed.

  20. Thanks for visiting me in England. I like Beatrix Potter too, although I never really understood why they used an American actress to play her in ‘Miss Potter’, I enjoyed the film nonetheless. The illustrations are timeless, and the characters enduring, even at the time of ‘Pixar’! Regards, Pete, Norfolk.

  21. How fun! I adore Beatrix Potter’s little books!

  22. I love animals and I love The Tale of Peter Rabbit 🙂

  23. Yes I also think the Potter stories are amazing for children – I remember them as a child, I also read them to my son who’s now 22, and now I read them to my son who’s 3. My husband and I went walking in the Lake district a few years ago and stayed in the hotel next door to Beatrice Potter’s Hilltop farm. It was also next door to the beautiful little pub (or Inn) that is in the Potter stories. The drawings of the pub are exactly like the real thing today… Nothing has changed at all in the area around there. Even the cottages she painted are still there and lived in to this day.
    I recommend a visit to anyone who loves the books! 🙂

  24. I, too, love Beatrix Potter and shared her stories many times with my Elementary Students. I especially related to your tree with many memories. We put up three main trees in the house. One with glass and gold ornaments that we have collected over the many years of our marriage. One with handmade ornaments that Ray’s sister has created over the last 30 years. One with ornaments given to us by friends, family and students. It’s a really great time of remembering.

  25. victoriaaphotography

    ‘Miss Potter’ …the movie is a favourite of mine. Having worked as a live-in children’s Nanny to many young toddlers and children in my youth, I know Beatrix Potter’s stories inside out and to this day (aged in my late fifties), I still find the simple stories and charming watercolours pictures enchanting and totally captivating.

  26. I love Mrs Tiggywinkle – there’s a hedgehog hospital in England called Mrs Tiggywinkle’s…. and societies that rescue hedgehogs from deep cattle-stops they can’t get out of….

  27. Thank you Nellie for the Homage to wonderful Beatrix Potter, I had watched the movie while ago and learned so much about her I didn’t know. Here @ the beach in Southern California we have lots of squirrels, I am always by their smartness and their squicking voices.

  28. Lovely post – Beatrix Potter stays alive in our house by reappearing in a few Christmas ornaments! Thanks for visiting.

  29. “Women were not allowed to attend” … says a lot, doesn’t it? Great blog, Ellis.

  30. Russell Bradley

    Hi Ellis
    As a small boy I attended a school in England called Squirrels Heath, where I wore a little uniform with an acorn and a squirrel on it. Such is my joy whenever I encounter one of these little creatures I am convinced that every child at that school had a previous incarnation as a squirrel, and quite naturally congregated there as squirrels tend to do.

    • As a child, I raised a baby squirrel who had fallen from a tree. We kept putting them back and they kept falling out. We eventually found that the mom had been hit by a car and killed. Neighbor kids divided up the babies. Mine was the only one to survive into adulthood. She was fed with a doll’s bottle. In the fall she resisted going back to the wild but eventually returned and disappeared. I was delighted when she showed up over a year later with two babies of her own (to show me, I think). She hung around a day and I never saw her again. I love squirrels!

  31. Merry Beatrix Potter Christmas to you.

  32. Looks like you live in quite a wonderland!! I’m glad that you take care of all the wildlife in your neighborhood. And thanks for this post on Beatrix Potter. Some of my favorite stories!

  33. Wonerfully written. Heartwarming and interesting. Love the picture of the squirrels ~ they are very entertaining, especially for our two cats who sit watching them through that pesky plate glass barrier.

  34. Gorgeous post. Really makes me want to get Peter Rabbit for my kids.

  35. Beatrix Potter is one of my favorite children authors. Here’s a posting I made recently:http://marygilmartin.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/authors-beatrix-potters-children-books/

  36. It’s so comforting to learn about people like Beatrix Potter…what a glorious imagination…with simplicity and beauty. I really like your blog…with the blue on the sides, with clear writing and *heart.*

  37. spiritualsignposts

    Beatrix Potter has won many children’s hearts here in the UK. Lovely stories, even if you’re an adult!
    Thanks for this post, and thanks for visiting spiritual signposts Ellis.
    Have a great Christmas

  38. I can relate to your love of animals. I grew up on a farm in upstate NY but now live in Cincinnati. Geese fly overhead, deer can be seen in the backyard at night, and once I went on the back porch at night and was confronted by a raccoon. Their beauty puts me in awe.

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