You know her as the Bucket Woman from Keeping Up Appearances, however, this woman has quite a few additional acting credits to her name. Dame Patricia Routledge presents a delightful documentary on one of England’s most beloved authors: Beatrix Potter. Dame Patricia is a patron of the Beatrix Potter Society and explores how Potter became a sensation in the Edwardian Period.
Beatrix Potter’s story begins in 1892. Her family goes on a family trip. Beatrix traveled with a very special animal on board the train: a rabbit. This rabbit would be the inspiration for Peter Rabbit. While her parents relaxed, Beatrix went out to enjoy the outdoors. One day she wrote a letter to a little boy about a rabbit. The inspiration for the story was sitting feet away from her. This would be the story of Peter Rabbit. He would be the most famous rabbit in all of England.
Potter belonged to a wealthy family. Potter’s grandfather made his fortune in the north. The family lived comfortably, never speaking of their northern roots. Beatrix’s father loved the arts and was always carrying a sketchbook. Artistic talent was in her genes. She was a talented artist and her early works demonstrate this. These drawings would be combined with stories to help them come alive. She loved animals.
Beatrix and her little brother Bertram, created their private zoo while in the nursery. She had a natural infinity for animals and made friends with the mice in her room. She loved worms and snails. Her drawings show her love of animals. She also loved studying animals, she observed their behavior and when they died they would go to the pot where they would examine the bones.
Dame Patricia found portraying Beatrix Potter a challenge so she did her exploring on her subject. She discovered that Beatrix’s father treated her as an equal. A.N. Wilson points out that Beatrix grew up in a household where learning flourished and was encouraged. Beatrix Potter started to make money with her art. In her 30’s, she went on a different course: science. In Scotland, she meets Charlie MacIntosh, who was a naturalist. She showed him her paintings and he found them so remarkable that he encouraged her interests in nature.
Beatrix Potter had a scientific paper presented at a science society. The scientists believed that the paper needed more work, so she withdrew it. This changed the direction of her life. She would eventually be an author. Her former governess suggested to Beatrix that the rabbit letter would be a good children’s story. So Beatrix expanded the story and illustrated it, then sent it off to the publishing industry. She would not take no for an answer. She published the “Tale of Peter Rabbit.” It was an immediate success. The publishing companies said no. She was determined to get published.
Finally, one publishing company responded. Beatrix sent out a manuscript to the company. It was originally in black and white. The publishing company wanted color illustrations and so Beatrix Potter sent back a manuscript with watercolor paintings. This book would be a success for Warnes Publishing Company. 8,000 copies were printed and sold out before they even hit the shelves.
To learn more about Beatrix Potter continue to watch the documentary.
This would be a fantastic documentary to show in an English Literature classroom or a general literature classroom. If you have a student doing a research paper on Beatrix Potter, then you can point them to this documentary as a start. Dame Patricia is a delight to listen to as she narrates the story of Beatrix Potter. She is enthusiastic about her subject and thoroughly enjoys sharing stories about Potter’s life.
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