Many thanks Janice for having given me the opportunity to focus on Beatrix Potter, one of the most famous British authors of children’s literature and one of my favourites too. The Tale of Peter Rabbit you’ve included in your last post is certainly the best known of the many stories Beatrix Potter has written and illustrated. All of them are lovable anyway, not only for the lively and humorous style used by the author to tell the funny (and not so funny ) adventures experienced by her characters but also, and maybe still more, for the great number of nice illustrations which make our reading a feast.
Beatrix Potter was a very talented artist whose drawings owe much to her love and deep knowledge of nature. Most of her tales reflect the author’s tenderness for animals and her passion for plants. In her books Beatrix Potter has put a lot of autobiographical elements: the places where she lived or spent her holidays in the Lake District as well as in the Highlands of Scotland and also her favourite pets, including the hedgehog which is the central character of The Tale of Tiggy-winkle, one of the two stories owing much to Scotland. The other story is The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher in which the central character happens to be a frog like in The Wind in the Willows, another well-known classic of children’s literature, written by the Scottish author Kenneth Grahame.
If you want to make yourself an idea of these two very enjoyable stories just take a look at this video I’ve found on You Tube!
Yesterday, as we were strolling around the streets in Bordeaux, we fell upon a very attractive bookshop dedicated to children’s literature. The window was so inviting that we entered the shop, lingering quite a long time there, browsing through the books lining on the shelves in a great variety of genres. What a marvellous place for young as well as older visitors and what cheerful welcome we did receive there! A child could not have been happier than we were! We’ll go back there to get more books to fill the shelves of the children’s library we’re building in our attic for our grandsons (and their parents and grand-parents too …
At Boby & Cie’s bookshop I asked the very kind bookseller if she happened to have some of Beatrix Potter’s books in French… she had several of them and I promised to buy some on our next visit for we had already chosen Arrête de lire a marvellous story written by Claire Gratias and very nicely illustrated by Sylvie Serprix.
We took several photos of Beatrix Potter garden and also some of the inside of the Birnam Institute while visiting the Dunkeld area in 2007. I will tell more about this visit in my next post.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)
- The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903)
- The Tailor of Gloucester (1903)
- The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904)
- The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904)
- The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (1905)
- The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan (1905)
- The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (1906)
- The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906)
- The Story of Miss Moppet (1906)
- The Tale of Tom Kitten (1907)
- The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck (1908)
- The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or, The Roly-Poly Pudding (1908)
- The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909)
- The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (1909)
- The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse (1910)
- The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes (1911)
- The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912)
- The Tale of Pigling Bland (1913)
- Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917)
- The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)
- Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes (1922)
- The Tale of Little Pig Robinson (1930)
My favourite story in Beatrix Potter’s tales is The Tailor of Gloucester. I’ve learned it was Beatrix Potter’s favourite one too . A very touching story and glorious drawings too as usual. I’ve found another You Tube video It’s irresistible!
‘A tailor in Gloucester sends his cat Simpkin to buy food and a twist of cherry-coloured silk to complete a waistcoat commissioned by the mayor for his wedding on Christmas morning. While Simpkin is gone, the tailor finds mice the cat has imprisoned under teacups. The mice are released and scamper away. When Simpkin returns and finds his mice gone, he hides the twist in anger.
The tailor falls ill and is unable to complete the waistcoat but, upon returning to his shop, he is surprised to find the waistcoat finished. The work has been done by the grateful mice. However, one buttonhole remains unfinished because there was “no more twist!” Simpkin gives the tailor the twist to complete the work and the success of the waistcoat makes the tailor’s fortune.’
As I’ve already mentioned before, two of Beatrix Potter’s tales have roots in Scotland. These are The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and The Tale of of Mr Jeremy Fisher.
The Tale of Mrs Tiggy Winkle is the story of Lucie, a little girl who lives in a farm called Little-town. Lucie has lost three handkerchiefs and a pinafore and she questions Tabby Kitten, Sally Henny-penny, Cock Robin, the animals of the farm who happen to know nothing about the lost objects. On climbing up the stile Lucie thinks she can make out, up the hill, ‘some white things spread upon the grass’ and she decides to go and see. While scrambling up the hill she passes by a bubbling spring where she finds a very small tin used to catch water. Lucie finally arrives to a little door behind which she can hear somebody who is singing. She knocks at the door and after a frightened voice has asked ‘Who’s that?’ Lucie enters the strange little house. She finds herself in a low-ceilinged kitchen filled with tiny things where ‘a short, stout person wearing a tucked-up print gown, an apron, and a striped petticoat’ is ironing. Notonly can Lucie find there her three lost handkerchiefs and pinafore but she also finds Henny-penny’s yellow stockings and Tabby Kitten’s white mittens, together with things belonging to the animals living in the neighbourghood, including “Squirrel Nutkin’s red tail coat with no tail and Peter Rabbit’s blue jacket”. Lucie admires Mrs Tiggy Winkle’s work for all things have been carefully laundered. When she has finished her work, the strange little person invites Lucie to have tea with her and then they set off together down the path to return the fresh laundry to the owners. At the bottom of the hill, Lucie mounts the stile and turns to thank Mrs. Tiggy-winkle but how astonished she is to see her running in the distance and turning to a little brown creature covered with prickles! “Why! Mrs. Tiggy-winkle [is] nothing but a HEDGEHOG!”
Has Lucie fallen asleep and dreamed the encounter, as Alice did in Wonderland? The question is raised at the end of the story, in a parenthesis. It appears clearly that the author does not want to break the magic of her story : ‘Now some people say that little Lucie had been asleep upon the stile – but then how could she have found three clean pocket-handkins and a pinny, pinned with a silver safety-pin? And besides I have seen that door into the back of the hill called Cat bells – and besides I am very well acquainted with dear Mrs. Tiggy-winkle!”
Indeed the author was very well acquainted with dear Mrs. Tiggy Winkle for Beatrix Potter’s character had been drawn after a woman she had well known during her holidays in Scotland. I’ve found a lot of information on Wikipedia, including very interesting extracts of the author’s letters, when she was young.
‘The story of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was inspired by Kitty MacDonald, a Scottish washerwoman the Potters employed over the course of eleven summers at Dalguise House on the River Tay in Perthshire, writes Leslie Linder. Potter was 26 when, in 1892, she visited MacDonald while staying at Heath Park, Birnam. She wrote in her journal: “Went out with the pony … to see Kitty MacDonald, our old washerwoman … Kitty is eighty-three but waken, and delightfully merry … She is a comical, round little woman, as brown as a berry and wears a multitude of petticoats and a white mutch. Her memory goes back for seventy years, and I really believe she is prepared to enumerate the articles of her first wash in the year ’71″.
In 1942, the year before she died, Potter’s thoughts returned to Kitty MacDonald when she wrote about a piece of crockery:
Seventy eighty years ago it belonged to another old woman, old Katie MacDonald, the Highland washerwoman. She was a tiny body, brown as a berry, beady black eyes and much wrinkled, against an incongruously white frilled mutch. She wore a small plaid crossed over shawl pinned with a silver brooch, a bed jacket, and a full kilted petticoat. She dropped bob curtsies, but she was outspoken and very independent, proud and proper … The joy of converse with old Katie was to draw her out to talk of the days when she was a wee bit lassie—herding the kine. The days when ‘Boney’ was a terror … the old woman wouldn’t dwell upon hard weather and storms; she spoke of the sunshine and clouds, and shadows, the heather bells, the … “the broom of the Cowden Knowes”, the sun and wind on the hills where she played, and knitted, and herded cattle and sheep. A bonny life it was, but it never came back …’
Below are a few notes about The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, the other tale which betrays a Scottish influence. Beatrix Potter did love Scotland where she had spent great holidays when she was young, in company of her family and friends and particularly with her dear brother Bertram.
‘Jeremy Fisher is a frog who lives in a “slippy-sloppy” house at the edge of a pond. One rainy day he collects worms for fishing, and sets off across the pond on his lily-pad boat. He plans to invite his friends for dinner if he catches more than five minnows. He encounters all sorts of setbacks to his goal, and escapes a large trout who tries to swallow him. He swims for shore, decides he will not go fishing again, and hops home.’ (Wikipedia)
Look ! I’ve just found another treasure on You Tube! It’s a series of ten videos recounting in a most interesting way Beatrix Potter’s life. Below are five of the ten videos. In my next post you will see the additional five!
A bientôt. Mairiuna