British writer of children's books.
Born in London, Beatrix Potter had a dull and solitary childhood, regulated by governesses. On holidays in Scotland and the Lake District she was enthralled by the wild animals and flowers, and one of her governesses, recognizing her artistic talent, encouraged her to draw and study them. She kept small animals as pets to compensate for the domination of her authoritarian parents.
Her books grew out of letters written in her late twenties to entertain a sick child. Their enduring popularity owes as much to the delicate watercolour illustrations, drawn by Beatrix Potter herself, as to the economical unsentimental prose of the animal stories. The first two, Peter Rabbit and The Tailor of Gloucester, were privately printed in 1900 and 1902, but she then found a publisher in Frederick Warne, who published most of her twenty-eight or so books. In 1905 she became engaged to his son Norman, but he died a few months later and Miss Potter, now financially independent through the sale of her books, bought a farm at Sawrey in the Lake District. She spent increasing periods of time there learning about farming, especially Herdwick sheep, on which she became an authority. In 1913 she married the Ambleside solicitor William Heelis and virtually ceased writing; she spent the rest of her life caring for her expanding estates in the Lake District, all of which were left to the National Trust at her death.