Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were–Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter.
– Beatrix Potter
Helen Beatrix Potter was an English author, illustrator, mycologist, and conservationist who was best known for her children’s books, which featured animal characters such as Peter Rabbit.
Born into a privileged household, Potter was educated by governesses, and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and through holidays in Scotland and the Lake District developed a love of landscape, flora and fauna, all of which she closely observed and painted. As a young woman her parents discouraged intellectual development, but her study and paintings of fungi led her to be widely respected in the field of mycology. In her thirties Potter published the highly successful children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and became secretly engaged to her publisher, Norman Warne, causing a breach with her parents, who disapproved of his social status. Warne died before the wedding could take place.
Potter eventually published 23 children’s books, and having become financially independent of her parents, was able to buy a farm in the Lake District, which she extended with other purchases over time. In her forties she married a local solicitor, William Heelis. She became a sheep breeder and farmer while continuing to write and illustrate children’s books. Potter died in 1943, and left almost all of her property to The National Trust in order to preserve the beauty of the Lake District as she had known it, protecting it from developers.
Potter’s books continue to sell well throughout the world, in multiple languages. Her stories have been retold in various formats, including a ballet, films and in animation.