BEATRIX POTTER: A Life in Nature. by Linda Lear
Heroism might not be the first virtue you would expect to find in the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. But the Beatrix Potter depicted in Linda Lear’s authoritative biography was undoubtedly heroic. Dauntless and public-spirited, she pitted herself against a world dominated by incompetent and obstructive men. Lear has discovered that, long before Beatrix began her famous series of “little books” for children, she was a serious student of natural history, pursuing research unthought of by the established male scientists of her day.
The male scientists were very cross, of course, for she had no right to be so clever. Besides being a woman, she was virtually untaught and had never had access to a proper laboratory. Her rich, snobbish parents had not believed in sending girls to school or university, so she and her younger brother had assembled their own botanical collection, including frogs, lizards, rabbits, hedgehogs, bats, mice, a snake, a brilliant green lizard called Judy and a family of snails who, Beatrix remarked, had “surprising differences of character”. When their animals died they were boiled and their skeletons measured, labelled and preserved.
As a young woman, her interest in plants and animals became all-absorbing.