For most of us, Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is a name that conjures up anthropomorphic rabbits and puddle-ducks. Linda Lear's Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature adds depth and color to the image. The first truly comprehensive biography of "Peter Rabbit's mother" places the famed author/illustrator within the context of her times. Potter once wrote, "I do not remember a time when I did not try to invent pictures and make for myself a fairyland amongst the wild flowers, the animals, fungi, mosses, woods and streams, all the thousands objects of the countryside." Lear shows how Potter's love of nature was woven inextricably to her artistry. A pastel treasure.
Beatrix Potter (1866–1943), creator of the immortal Peter Rabbit, is known as an avid writer of comical illustrated letters to friends and as an assertive marketer of her illustrations, and this lively volume also captures her energetic participation in Victorian-era natural history research and conservation. Environmental historian Lear (Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature) relates that, as a child in an upper-middle-class family, Potter sketched flowers, dead animals and live lizards, insects and rodents that she brought home. "Rabbits were caught, tamed, sketched, painted" by young Beatrix and her brother, Bertram. In 1893, while traveling with her pet rabbit, Peter Piper, and seeking unusual fungi with self-taught mycologist Charles McIntosh, Potter jotted an illustrated note "about a disobedient young rabbit called 'Peter' " to an ailing child friend and sketched Peter's nemesis, a McIntosh–look-alike farmer called Mr. McGregor, creating "two fictional characters that one day would be world-famous." Lear judges Potter "a brilliant amateur" naturalist who expressed strong convictions about land preservation. Potter's witty journals, with their close observations of people, animals, objects and places, serve as the basis for Lear's engrossing account, which will appeal to ecologists, historians, child lit buffs and those who want to know the real Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Benjamin Bunny. A movie, Miss Potter, also releases in January. 16 pages of color illus., 8 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Beatrix Potter (1866–1943), author/illustrator of more than 20 "little books" for children, is known for her collection of Peter Rabbittales. In this remarkable biography, Lear (Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature) provides "an exploration of the life and times of a woman who is a household name on several continents, but whose personal life and significant scientific and environmental accomplishments remain largely unknown." Drawing on Potter's journal, letters, and many other primary and secondary sources, Lear contends that Potter brought nature back into the English imagination with her books and illustrations. Readers learn about Potter's difficult parents, the prescribed Victorian code of conduct in which she grew up, her relationship with her publisher, her reaction to the death of her first fiancé, and her role as a major benefactor of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty. The detailed analysis of Potter's works enables Lear to comment on Potter's artistry in storytelling and illustrating. The author's meticulous attention to detail is obvious throughout, not to mention her elegant writing and exceptional scholarship. Highly recommended for academic, special, and public libraries.
Kathryn R. Bartelt
A stolid biography by environmental historian Lear (Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, 1997) that gets at the facts of Victorian Potter's life but does not bother addressing motivations and thwarted ambition. Born in 1866, Potter, a child of wealthy Unitarians in the calico manufacturing business, enjoyed a privileged upbringing between South Kensington, London, and the country homes of her grandparents in the Lake District and in Perthshire, Scotland. These locales stimulated her early interest in natural history, often a passion for the Victorians. Never sent to school as her younger brother was, but taught at home by tutors, Potter demonstrated an early talent for drawing, developed by copying animals and plants from nature, especially fungi and lichen viewed through a microscope. She eventually developed some theories about fungi reproduction, but they were dismissed as amateurish. (Lear argues that she could have become an expert in any number of fields, such as botany, archaeology, geology and mycology.) Approaching spinsterhood, and seething against a domineering mother, she first published some of her animal designs in holiday cards, then grew determined to become financially independent. Her first Peter Rabbit work had been fashioned in letters to the children of her former governess, and then published as a little book by Frederick Warne in 1902. Her anthropomorphized rabbits were an instant hit, and they were followed quickly by tales of Squirrel Nutkin, the tailor of Gloucester, Hunca Munca, et al. She was for a time engaged to be married to her publisher's son, Norman Warne, but he died. Potter went on to achieve self-sufficiency with the purchase of her own Lake Districthome at Sawrey in 1905, and she later settled down to happy married farm life with Anglican barrister William Heelis. Although Lear had access to volumes of diaries and letters, her shaping of Potter's intriguing life is rather blockheaded. Film rights to MGM
Read Beatrix Potter by Linda Lear and you sense a woman poised between late-Victorian constraint and the promises, intellectual and amorous, of liberation.” Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
“Potter was a famously close observer of the world around her, and Lear is an equally close observer of her subject. The result is a meticulously researched and brilliantly re-created life that, despite its length and accretion of detail, is endlessly fascinating and often illuminating. It is altogether a remarkable achievement.” Booklist, *Starred Review*
“Lear is not only an impeccable historian but a grand storyteller...a magisterial and definitive biography, a delight in every way.” The Horn Book
“In this remarkable biography...the author's meticulous attention to detail is obvious throughout, not to mention her elegant writing and exceptional scholarship. Highly recommended.” Library Journal