Thursday, 4 October 2012

Timeless Tales Of English Country Life

I expect most people have heard of the author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter.  Her sweet tales have entertained generations of small children and their parents alike, and I have many fond memories of sharing her beautifully illustrated little books with the cubs when they were wee.  We also studied her in more detail as part of a homeschool project - which tied in with a family trip to the Lake District, to see her quaint cottage home and the beautiful surroundings where she lived, not really so far from where Papa Bear and I grew up, in an equally lovely and unspoilt part of rural Northern England.

Like our children, Beatrix Potter was homeschooled, although she was taught by a Governess, not her own mother, as was the norm for most better-off families in the late 1800's.   Just as Edith Holden, illustrator of "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" did, Beatrix Potter found great inspiration and pleasure in the natural environment around her, and from a young age enjoyed painting and drawing from life.  She had many pets, some quite exotic, especially for the time - such as bats and hedgehogs!  These animals come to life in her books, and her brilliant artistic skills, which enabled her to capture so cleverly the characteristics of the animals featured in them, were rivalled only by her wonderful imagination, which lent itself to the quaint and amusing tales that are told within the books.

She was very well educated and given, especially for a young woman of her time, quite a broad experience of culture, especially art and architecture, regularly visiting London, where she saw not only many of the wonderful art collections there, but also visited Kew Gardens and met some of the famous Botanists who worked there at that time.  All these experiences must have contributed to her developing talent, and although the books display a touching and enchanting innocence they belie a very cultured and intelligent woman.

For us today enjoying her sweet books, they allow us a glimpse into a simple, rural life far removed from the busy city environments many of us live in today.  They reflect life without all the mechanical, computerised conveniences that we take for granted now, yet somehow still have a timelessness that is both appealing and inspiring.  How I would love to live like Mrs. Tiggywinkle, or Peter Rabbit's sister, Cotton-Tail!  We have visited the Lake District on many occasions, and I am always minded of the sweet tales of Beatrix Potter whenever we are there.  Somehow even in her small books she succeeeds in capturing the tranquility and beauty of a part of England where God's creation is truly at its most breathtakingly lovely.

If you would like to read Beatrix Potter's books, you don't need to look far to be able to enjoy them.  Project Gutenberg offers most of the most popular titles online for free, although sadly they do not have the gorgeous illustrations that accompany the printed books.  However they are inexpensive to buy - and well worth the small expense, if like us, you appreciate the innocence and wonder of nature, seasoned with a sweet charm that seems so difficult to capture, in today's busy world.  They're a lovely escape - and a quaint and beautiful way to share a small piece of English heritage and history with the next generation.  I think they're lovely.

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