Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Tale of Beatrix Potter, Margaret Lane has re-created the life of the renowned nineteenth century artist and writer of books for children using Potter’s journal and private papers, recollections of family and friends, and the assistance of William Heelis, Potter’s husband. Photographs depict a posed Potter at different stages of her life, an original version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), and a page from a journal that she kept, in code, from her childhood until she was in her twenties. An appendix provides a listing, by date and publisher, of her published work.

The first part of the book recalls details of Potter’s childhood. Her parents, mem-bers of the wealthy middle class in Victorian England, followed a schedule that gave the appearance of busyness but that did not entail work for pay. Although their round of clubs, holiday visits, afternoon drives, and occasional forays to a local museum gave direction to their lives, it did not appear to include time to consider the emotional needs of their young daughter.

Potter was raised in the virtual absence of other children until the birth of her brother when she was five. Governesses provided her with food, clothing, exercise, and the basics of education. As Bertram, her brother, grew older, he gave her both companionship and encouragement, but these were not sufficient to overcome the shyness and poor self-esteem that was partly self-induced and partly the result of the indifference of her parents.

The second part of the book explores the events leading up to, and the results of, the publication of The Tale of...

(The entire section is 668 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Born in 1866, Potter grew up in London during the last decades of the nineteenth century, an era usually referred to as the Victorian period....

(The entire section is 352 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Lane, a novelist, uses many of the techniques of fiction to write The Tale of Beatrix Potter. She creates well-defined characters,...

(The entire section is 145 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

One of the most difficult tasks for some young readers of this book will involve coming to a fair understanding of Victorian attitudes toward...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. To be eccentric means to be unusual or "outside the center of things." In what ways do you think Beatrix Potter was truly an eccentric? In...

(The entire section is 248 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Critics often like to identify the people and places that inspired Potter's books. Try to separate the "fact" from the "fiction" in some...

(The entire section is 192 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Under, Leslie. The Art of Beatrix Potter. 1955. Rev. ed. Middlesex, England: Frederick Warne, 1972. Contains reproductions of many of...

(The entire section is 141 words.)