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.)