In this remarkable biography, Linda Lear offers a new look at the extraordinary woman who gave us some of the most beloved children's books of all time. Potter found freedom from her conventional Victorian upbringing in the countryside. Nature inspired her imagination as an artist and scientific illustrator, but "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" brought her fame, financial success, and the promise of happiness when she fell in love with her editor Norman Warne.Read more...
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In this remarkable biography, Linda Lear offers a new look at the extraordinary woman who gave us some of the most beloved children's books of all time. Potter found freedom from her conventional Victorian upbringing in the countryside. Nature inspired her imagination as an artist and scientific illustrator, but "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" brought her fame, financial success, and the promise of happiness when she fell in love with her editor Norman Warne. After his tragic and untimely death, Potter embraced a new life as the owner of Hill Top Farm in the English Lake District and a second chance at happiness. As a visionary landowner, successful farmer and sheep-breeder, she was able to preserve the landscape that had inspired her art. "Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature" reveals a lively, independent and passionate woman, whose art was timeless, and whose generosity left an indelible imprint on the countryside. Linda Lear is a professor of environmental history and the author of the prize-winning biography, "Rachel Carson": "Witness for Nature," as well as an enthusiastic horticulturist and collector of botanical art. She and her husband live in Bethesda, Maryland. Beatrix Potter created books that will forever conjure nature for millions. Though she is a household name around the world, her personal life and her other significant achievements remain largely unknown. Potter's was, Linda Lear reveals, a life inspired and enriched by nature. Even as a child and a young woman growing up in a wealthy, conventional London family, her imagination and artistic talent were fed by visits to the countryside. She found personal and financial freedom through nature, first as an artist and scientific illustrator, and then as the creator of the overnight bestseller "Peter Rabbit"--which also revealed her to be a far-sighted marketer and merchandiser. It was the "little books" that led Beatrix to her first great love: her editor and publisher Norman Warne, who died tragically just a month after he proposed to her. But Beatrix Potter was one of those rare individuals who is given a second chance at happiness. Her purchase of Hill Top Farm in the Lake District just after Warne's death led to her reinvention as a successful landowner and country farmer, and eventually to a happy marriage to William Heelis. She became a conservationist in order to preserve the landscape that had inspired her art, and, through the lands she bequeathed to the National Trust on her death, she saved whole areas of the Lake District for posterity. At a time when plunder was more popular than preservation, she had brought nature back into the imagination. "Beatrix Potter": "A Life in Nature" reveals a strong, humorous, and independent woman, whose art was timeless, and whose generosity left an indelible imprint on the countryside. "The matters on which Lear chooses to focus her work are so genuinely interesting . . . I am struggling to think of a writer who comes across as more humanly admirable than the energetic, blunt, determined, and always truthful Beatrix Potter."--"The New York Review of Books" "The matters on which Lear chooses to focus her work are so genuinely interesting . . . Indeed, Potter's biography comes close to being the opposite of a familiar writer's life. In the standard model, a ton of irrelevant detail adds hardly anything to our understanding of the writer's work and (usually) leaves us with a deep sense of her personal unsatisfactoriness. In Potter's case, it comes to seem that those extraliterary details--the years from 1911 to 1943--were her real life, and the books were, to her, a kind of footnote. I am struggling to think of a writer who comes across as more humanly admirable than the energetic, blunt, determined, and always truthful Beatrix Potter."--"The New York Review of Books" "Lear, a former professor of environmental history and author of a well-regarded biography of Rachel Carson, brings a valuable new perspective to a much-debated life . . . Lear presents enough historical context and documentation to transform Potter's life story from one of sad limitation to a roster of fine accomplishments, crowned with a happy thirty-three year marriage . . . Potter's entire life is presented in as much detail as her last thirty happy years are, beginning with significant ancestors and their intellectual and financial heritage as well as the Unitarianism that curtailed the Potters' social circle in London. Lear's account of the shy young woman's early botanical drawings and research is fascinating, not least for its revelation of character . . . "Beatrix Potter" covers the genesis of the children's books with extensive reference to their actual settings, liking stories with the people, creatures, and events that inspired them and describing the books themselves with cogent appreciation . . . Beatrix herself is most generously revealed via Lear's excellent descriptions and abundance of telling quotes . . . Lear seems to have consulted nearly all of the vast number of available primary sources with diligence and intelligence. Her book is splendidly documented: virtually every paragraph has its endnote, often with several citations. Lear is not only an impeccable historian but a grand storyteller, worthy of her subject; her writing is a pleasure--a suitable companion to Potter's own marvelously succinct and ironical style. Lear's point of view as a naturalist is a perfect match for Potter's own lifelong dedication to natural history and the preservation of land, landscape, and community . . . Altogether, this is a magisterial and definitive biography, a delight in every way."--Joanna Rudge Long, "Horn Book"" " "As an appreciation of a life well-lived and a talent almost accidentally nurtured, "Beatrix Potter "tells an absorbing story well worth reading."--"The Christian Science Monitor" "Lear paints an appealing, revealing picture of an independent, accomplished and loving woman who used her art and resear