My neighbors are making a doll house. I need to lend them Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice.
The story is about two mice–husband Tom Thumb and wife Hunca Munca –who invade a doll’s house while the little owner is away. I am endlessly amused by Potter’s account of how the mice inspect the property, marvel over the luxury of its furnishings, and become furious when the food proves to be plaster and inedible! I hope my little neighbor will enjoy the tale, too, and perhaps see her own doll house in new and exciting ways.
For my readers, I also want to share Potter as an incredible example of solopreneuring. Born into a wealthy English family in an era when “privileged” women did not pursue careers, Potter came to fame as the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. An avid amateur artist and botanist, she bloomed after the passing of her parents and their restrictive influence.
With the proceeds from her first book, Potter purchased Hill Top Farm, a property in England’s Lake District. The house and its contents became a frequent backdrop for her quirky stories and deft illustrations. There are 23 books in the Original Peter Rabbit Books series, works that made her famous in her own time and a very wealthy woman. Potter’s life was romanticized in the 2006 movie Miss Potter, where she was played by a de-glamorized Renee Zellwegger. The film focused on how she came to be an author and fell in love with publisher Frederick Warne.
In reality Miss Potter was even more frumpy than the Hollywood depiction and her influence reached far beyond children’s reading habits. Warne started her publishing career, but tragically died before the pair could wed. Potter went on to marry a country lawyer, William Heelis, and to purchase large tracts of land in the Lake District. She loved the mountainous area dotted with farms and was devoted to preserving the landscape and native Herdwick sheep. When she bequeathed 4000+ acres to the National Trust, Potter helped lay the groundwork for a massive national park.
Potter was brilliant and mousy (excuse the pun). When she was past youth, she remained tireless in her enthusiasms. Her influence and endurance are a source of inspiration for me. The story of Beatrix Potter is a reminder that it’s never too late to start doing things that are important and that make you happy.
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