Book Corner 2023.14

by Charles King, circa 1913

Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

I will get through this whole review without using the word “charming.”

Beatrix Potter is a hero of mine. She was a talented illustrator who wanted to do nature drawings for scientific journals. Her claim to fame ended up being Peter Rabbit. This plus 21 other tiny little books of tales served as my bedtime reading this week. We found a complete boxed set at a used book store. While I was familiar with Peter Rabbit, had read Beatrix’s bio, and named a goat after her, I had never read the complete tales until now.

It was a joy. Apart from the fact that the animals wear clothing, the illustrations and even many of the tales are very true to life. Peter Rabbit looks and feels very bunnylike indeed after losing his shoes and coat, lost and disoriented and damp from hiding in the watering can. The dogs, mice, badgers, frogs, “puddleducks”, hens, piglets, etc. inhabiting this world, while engaging in people-like pursuits, keep their respective animal natures about them. One of my favorite tales involved two mice ransacking a dollhouse. After trying and failing to eat the tiny plaster food, they commence making a general mess and then spiriting various objects down their mousehole. Very mousey. Next morning, the dolls just stare and smile.

Beatrix lost her fiance tragically during a long engagement insisted upon by her parents, to whom she felt duty but little more. When they had both passed away, and she had inherited and earned money enough, she left the city she never liked and bought herself a farm among her beloved lakes. She came to life. And she was instrumental in preserving the local breed of sheep. I just felt like putting in a plug of why she’s my hero.

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