Monday, January 08, 2007

Peter Rabbit's mother.

The Economist uses the arrival of a new biography to profile Beatrix Potter.
Potter grew up, not in the countryside—the scene for so many of her stories about rabbits and squirrels, ducks and frogs—but in London. Her family made their money building the biggest calico printing company in the world, but quickly left their roots behind. As first-generation immigrants to the capital, their social circle was restricted, certainly more so than it would have been if they had remained among their Unitarian relatives in Manchester. And Potter's chances of finding a husband were further reduced by her mother's snobbish insistence that she not marry into “trade”. Only a suitor with inherited land, and preferably also a title, would do.

Like many Victorian parents, the Potters did not believe in female education either, despite young Beatrix's obvious intelligence. With the aid of private tutors, she became fluent in French and German, showed an early talent for drawing which was encouraged by a family friend, Sir John Everett Millais, and eagerly pursued the passion of the day, natural history. She was a frequent visitor to the Natural History Museum near the family home in South Kensington, and devoted much of her time to drawing animals from life, principally her pets, whose antics she liked to turn into illustrated letters to the children of her nanny.
Inter alia, Potter was well served by remarkably good judgment in merchandising and hiring legal counsel.

Via The Elegant Variation, which is fast becoming one of my favorites.

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