Illustration of Peter Rabbit with his family, from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter dated 1901. Image online, courtesy Project Gutenberg. See the fully illustrated eBook at Project Gutenberg.
It is much more satisfactory
to address a real live child;
I often think that that was the secret
of the success of Peter Rabbit,
it was written to a child - not made to order!
Noel Moore wasn’t feeling well during the late summer of 1893. Home in London, the five-year-old boy received a special letter from Beatrix Potter, a close family friend. It began:
My dear Noel:
I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell
you a story about four little rabbits whose names
were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.
More than a simple story, written to make a child with scarlet fever feel better, the letter was filled with pictures, drawn by Miss Potter. It was one of many picture-letters which Beatrix created for Noel and his siblings.
When her young friend was about twelve, Beatrix asked if she could borrow the letter she had written to him on September 4, 1893. It would be the basis of a little book to be called The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
Who was this woman who wrote picture-letters to friends, then reused some of them to create picture-books for the public? Where did she live? Who, and what, inspired her?
And ... how could it be that more than one hundred years after she published her first book, she is still one of the most popular writers and illustrators of children's stories?