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Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature Hardcover – January 9, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Beatrix Potter had a passion for place that found aesthetic expression in the beautifully realized natural settings of her celebrated children's books (The Tale of Peter Rabbit, etc.) and also practical expression in her less-well-known role as a successful landowner, farm manager, and sheep breeder. Accordingly, Lear, who is a professor of environmental history, gives special attention to the places that provided the settings for Potter's books and for her real-life evolution as a shrewd businesswoman and ardent preservationist of the rural landscape of her beloved Lake District (when she died in 1943, she left vast holdings of land and property to Britain's National Trust). The social settings and circumstances of Potter's early life as a Victorian child of sometimes stultifying privilege are also beautifully realized. And Lear's depiction of Potter's later struggle for personal and financial independence invests an otherwise quiet life with drama and even a degree of suspense. 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. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312369344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312369347
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Linda Lear is an environmental historian and the author of two prize-winning biographies: Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (2009) and Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (2007). She has written the introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (2012) and edited an anthology of Carson's unpublished writing, Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1998). She maintains www.rachelcarson.org. Linda lives in Bethesda, Maryland and Charleston, South Carolina.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have fond memories of the Tale of Peter Rabbit from your childhood; or if you have an interest in women who bravely challenged a social destiny that seemed foregone and inevitable; or if you are interested in naturalism and the history of preservation, you will enjoy and learn from Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, by environmental historian Linda Lear.

Beatrix Potter was born in London in 1866 to wealthy Victorian parents. From early childhood, she was passionately interested in the natural world and drew what she saw in meticulous, painstaking detail, using as models the many animals that she and her brother collected during family holidays. These animal drawings became increasingly imaginative until they at last came to life in the delightful characters that populate The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck and other books, all of which became phenomenal bestsellers.

In 1905, after the death of her fiancé and editor, Norman Warne, Potter used the royalties from her books and a small inheritance from an aunt to purchase a farm in the hamlet of Near Sawrey, in the Lake District. There, she met Willie Heelis, a country lawyer who in 1913 became her husband, and together they set about fulfilling a dream they shared: preserving and protecting the Lake District from the despoliation of commercial development. They lived and worked happily together until 1943, when Beatrix Potter Heelis died.

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature is the most exhaustive and rigorous examination of Potter's life to date.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the book we've been waiting for: the definitive chronicle of Beatrix Potter's life. Here we read -- with pleasure -- the details of her life, revealed many times in her own words in letters to friends, relatives, and publishing business associates. The woman who created the tale of Peter Rabbit in an illustrated letter to a favorite child was much more than a children's book author. She grew into a headstrong, independent woman who became a sheep farmer and who fell in love with England's Lake District and helped to save thousands of acres of it in conjunction with the National Trust. Hers is a miraculous story that should be shared, especially with teens who are feeling stifled by controlling parents. This is the sort of book that you almost don't want to finish because you don't want the visit to be over. We are just now realizing what an interesting person Beatrix Potter Heelis was! Thank you, Ms. Lear!
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Format: Hardcover
Beatrix Potter led a far more interesting life that I could have imagined. Raised as a proper young lady, she was assigned by her parents as the manager of their household. She was in charge of the servants and responsible to be sure that everything was done properly and well.

So while she was doing this, she studied (by herself of course, who would let a girl go to school) and became a rather reknown mycologist, making the breakthrough observation that lichens were a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. She was proposed to be a member of the student body at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. But, of course, as a mere female she was turned down.

So beginning to make some drawings, and writing a few stories she became the J.K. Rowling of her time when she published a book 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit.' She went on to publish another 22 books, and to create a merchandising empire about the characters.

Making yet another switch in later life, she became a gentleman farmer, raising prizewinning sheep and cattle.

Ms. Lear has not only done a splendid job in writing this book, she deserves our thanks.
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Format: Hardcover
Excellent!!! From the first page this book grips the reader in the background of England's finest nature illustrator of the nineteenth century.

See a new dimension to this famous children's author. Learn about her strong conservation efforts that preserved the English lake district.

A must read for all grown-up fans of Peter Rabbit and his friends.
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Format: Hardcover
My wife bought the book and I picked it up by mistake, not intending to read a biography of the woman who gave us Peter Rabbit -and certainly not of Mrs.Tiggy-Winkle--of whom I have never heard (but Google had, a lot). I persevered, however, and soon got caught up in an eye-level account of the customs and mores of life in rural England, Scotland and Wales. I envy Potter her tough life-long struggle with her sheep, her neighbors and fellow farmers and her cottage. She lived among people she admired and respected and in a place she loved and thought was the most beautiful on earth. Buy this book for your wife, but read it first yourself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enjoyable read. Interesting woman. Although she is perhaps best known as the author of the the children's book "Peter Rabbit" Beatrix Potter, the woman, lead a full and useful life that was dedicated to preserving nature. This book tells the story of Beatrix Potter's life from the beginning, tracing her family's lineage, and ends with her death. If you're interested in learning more about Beatrix Potter beyond her image as the author and designer of childrens toys and wall paper, buy this book.
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