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Beatrix Potter‘s life and art combine and complement each other. From an early age, she had many interests, including natural history, mycology, archaeology, fossils and farming, but always she liked to draw and record whatever she was studying. She was born on 28 July, 1866 at No. 2, Bolton Gardens, Kensington, and her early life was typical of many Victorian children with wealthy parents. First a nanny and then a series of governesses presided over the nursery on the third floor and she recorded in her journal that this was preferable to formal schooling. It allowed her to develop her own interests without being forced into a regulation mould.
These interests began with the many animals she and her brother Bertram kept in their nursery, varying from newts, frogs, bats and a snake to the more usual rabbit Beatrix called Peter Piper. The creatures were drawn and painted exhaustively. As Beatrix grew older, her early studies were widened to include different aspects of the countryside. She could not resist what she called 'the irresistible desire to copy any beautiful object which strikes the eye ... I must draw, however poor the result!‘
The best opportunities for sketching came during the family holidays. These were taken in April, two weeks at a seaside resort, and during the summer, three months in the country. At first Scotland was the choice, at Dalguise in Perthshire, but from 1882 it was mainly the Lake District. Beatrix discovered the beauty of fungi at Dalguise, learning much about them from the local postman, Charles Mclntosh. She became knowledgeable about obscure species and studied their propagation. Eventually she had over 250 drawings of fungi, over 40 of different mosses and many microscope studies of the process of germination. Her theory on this process was presented in the form of a paper 'On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae‘ to the leading scientists of the day at a meeting of the Linnean Society, but though proved to be right in later years, it was not then considered tenable.
Beatrix turned to her other interests. She had needed money for a new microscope and begun to sell illustrations of animals to card manufacturers; she was lent a collection of antiquities dug up near London Wall in 1872-3 and meticulously recorded these small Roman articles from the first century, personal ornaments, shoes, instruments and tools; she studied fossils.
In 1905 Beatrix bought her first property, Hilltop Farm in Near Sawrey in the Lake District. As her royalties mounted she bought more little farms and land and cottages and in time found William Heelis, a local solicitor, very helpful in both helping to buy and in looking after her properties. William asked Beatrix to marry him in 1912 and the marriage took place in Kensington in October 1913. They went to live in Castle Cottage, one of Beatrix‘s Lake District properties at Near Sawrey.
Beatrix became deeply involved in looking after her growing estate and in the life of the Lake District countryside which she had grown to love. William introduced her to his family and friends and to the Armitt Library, of which he was a member.
Beatrix and William were devoted to one another and the marriage was successful and happy. Beatrix died in 1943, just before Christmas, and her head shepherd, Tom Storey, scattered her ashes, as she had requested, among the little hills of what she had described as 'the most pleasant countryside in the world‘.
A number of books about Beatrix Potter and her art can be purchased from the Museum Shop
Beatrix Potter's Lake District Fungi it may take a few minutes to download.
The Beatrix Potter Society Holds regular talks and meetings and arranges visits to places of interest connected with Beatrix Potter. A quarterly newsletter is issued free to members and contains articles on a wide range of topics. Every two years The Society holds an International Study Conference.
Brothers ] [
Armitt Sisters ] [
Arnolds ] [ Herbert
Bell ] [ J W
Brunskill ] [
Collingwood Family ] [
W E Forster ] [
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Alfred Heaton Cooper
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