I can't believe week 3 of my Beatrix Potter study is over! I have so much to get through next week...she was quite a prolific artist/writer! But I'm learning so much.... here's my notes from week 3.
As Beatrix was waiting for F. Warne & Co. to release The Tail of Peter Rabbit, she sketched and compiled ideas for The Tailor of Gloucester. She copied the story into an exercise book and added watercolor illustrations. She then gave it to a friend for Christmas in 1901.
In 1902, she borrowed the book back from the friend and self published 500 copies. Soon Peter Rabbit was a success and F. Warne & Co. was looking to publish another book. Still they waited to see just how successful her privately printed book would be before printing their own version. In 1903, their edition was released; Beatrix again redid all but one illustration and revised the story.
While Beatrix was working on The Tailor of Gloucester she also was working on The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. She liked the idea of working on multiple stories at one time. Like Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin began in a letter to the Moore children. She recounted "An old lady who lives on St. Herbert's Island says she thinks the squirrels come over the lake when her nuts are ripe; but I wonder how they can get across water? Perhaps they make little rafts!" Nutkin is a story rooted in a real place, the shores of Derwentwater. [beginning sketches, book cover 1903, letter to Norah Moore, landscape study of the view across Derwentwater to St. Herbert's Island, an illustration that didn't make it into the book, and one that did.]
Beatrix was seriously ahead of her time. In 1903, she designed and created a Peter Rabbit doll. She immediately registered it at the patent office, making Peter Rabbit the world’s oldest licensed literary character.
She went on to create other merchandise such as a Peter Rabbit board game, Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck painting books, and Peter Rabbit’s Almanac She wanted to make sure that all the merchandise was faithful to the original book illustrations and of the highest quality.
In 1903 as Beatrix was leaving for summer holiday she wrote to Norman Warne of her hopes that another book might be confirmed. She felt her stock of backgrounds was rather used up and she was hoping to sketch over the summer. She also felt that the next book needed a less complicated story and suggested that she revisit the rabbit family in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Warne agreed and that summer Beatrix made about 70 background sketches and studies at Fawe Park. In 1904, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny was published, Peter Rabbit's first sequel.
While working on Tales of Gloucester, Beatrix rescued and tamed two mice, which she named Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca. Beatrix wanted to use the doll house that Norman Warne had built for his niece as the setting for this story about the two mice but her mother forbade her from visiting the Warne house to sketch the doll house in person. Instead Norman sent her photographs of the house for reference and as thanks Beatrix dedicated the book to Winifred Warne: "for W.M.L.W., the girl who had the doll's house." This story began as The Tale of Hunca Munca and then The Tale of the Doll's House and Hunca Munca but was later changed to The Tale of Two Bad Mice, published in 1904.
Most of the backgrounds for The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle had been done while in Derwentwater in 1903 and the character sketches in 1905. I think that kind of gives an idea of how Beatrix worked, letting stories develop over time and continuously working on locations and backgrounds during holidays. Beatrix's own pet hedgehog Tiggy-winkle was a model for her sketches "so long as she can go to sleep on my knee . . . but if she is propped up on end for half and hour, she does bite!" Instead Beatrix ended up making a cottonwool hedgehog dummy to dress up for sketches. She wrote to Norman, "The hedgehog drawings are turning out very comical. ... [The dummy] is such a little figure of fun, it terrifies my rabbit." The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was published in 1905.
If like Beatrix I was to draw the animals around me and make up a story about them, I think it would involve a vicious gang with a kingpin/chef whose specialty is fried green tomatoes.