Beatrix Potter based some of her famous characters—like "Peter Rabbit"—on real animals (such as "Peter Piper"). In this image, we see Miss Potter with her pet rabbit, "Benjamin Bouncer."


As she approached her mid-thirties, Beatrix Potter was alone much of the time. When she was not spending summers in Scotland or the Lake District, she was home in London. She was a dutiful, Victorian daughter who helped her parents as she waited for “the right” marriage partner.

She’d had pets, though, who were her friends throughout her life. A rabbit, whom she called "Benjamin Bouncer," was replaced by "Peter Piper." She would walk her rabbits with a lead, as though they were puppies. Later, she put her hedgehog, "Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle," in a box and took it with her wherever she traveled.

The "real Peter" - her rabbit, Peter Piper - was a Belgian buck rabbit whom Beatrix described as an "affectionate companion."  After she became a famous author, Potter wrote:

Peter used to lie before the fire on the hearth rug like a cat. He was clever at learning tricks, he used to jump through a hoop, and ring a bell, and play the tambourine.

He was also, according to Beatrix, "very naughty." What better model to use for a children’s story?

It wasn’t just the animals that were real in Beatrix’s books. (Follow both links to see a Benjamin Bunny animation.) Drawing heavily on what she had experienced herself, she pulled the Scottish countryside, the Lake District’s beauty and her uncle’s Welsh garden (which is still filled with rabbits) into her stories.

Many Potter scholars believe that even Mr. McGregor is real. Was he based on Charlie McIntosh? One can certainly draw that conclusion when comparing the fictional McGregor with the real McIntosh.

Beatrix did not say how she named her characters. But there might be clues in Brompton Cemetery, not far from the Potter family home. In the summer of 2001, an investigation of the cemetery’s computerized records revealed something worth considering:

Names on headstones included Mr. Nutkin, Mr. McGregor, Jeremiah Fisher, Tommy Brock - and even a Peter Rabbett. (“Cemetery clue to Potter animals,” BBC News, 27 July 2001)

In 1900, Beatrix talked with her friend, Hardwicke Rawnsley, about an illustrated children’s book she wished to publish. It was about “Peter Rabbit,” based on the picture-letter she had written to Noel Moore seven years earlier.

Rawnsley tried to help her find a publisher. No one wanted the book. One company expressed some interest, but only if she increased the book’s size. Beatrix dismissed that suggestion out-of-hand. She knew what children wanted and, if she could not find a company to work with her, she would publish the book herself.

Just before Christmas, in 1901, her privately published book - with its black and white illustrations - was ready. She had 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit to either sell or give away. Most fell into the latter category.

Hardwicke Rawnsley, however, still believed a publisher should get involved. He continued to search for a reputable company, finally convincing Frederick Warne to take another look. They agreed - if the narration was simple and the pictures were in color. (Hardwicke, in an effort to help Beatrix “sell” her book idea, had changed her text to rhyme the words.)

Unable to sign contracts for herself - even though she was in her mid-thirties - Beatrix convinced her father to execute a publishing agreement, on her behalf, with F. Warne & Co. When the new Peter Rabbit book was released - on 2 October 1902 - all 8,000 copies had been pre-sold.

As she continued to work with her editor, Norman Warne, Beatrix was about to take another journey on her road to independence. She fell in love.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
2 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Jul 15, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"THE REAL PETER RABBIT" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2006. Jan 25, 2020.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips