The greatest pearls of life wisdom from Beatrix Potter

Posted by
Harriet Hall

She’s the woman who brought us Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and – of course – Peter.

Beatrix Potter remains one of the world’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators, whose stories of farmyard animals have lit up the youth of many.

Alongside her magical books, Potter was an environmentalist and botanist – whose enduring love for nature can be felt in every word she wrote – at a time when it was incredibly rare for women to flourish in this way.

Born in 1866, Potter was home-schooled and taught herself to draw and paint, later studying natural history at home. By 27, Potter had written what was set to be one of the most popular children’s books of all time: The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Today, over two million Potter books are sold worldwide, every year, which amounts to about one every fifteen seconds.

Here, we recount some of her wisest words. . .   

Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter, 1866-1943

On creativity:

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they'll take you.”

“Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.”

“I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever.” 

On education:

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

beatrix potter

On Success:

“Most people, after one success, are so cringingly afraid of doing less well that they rub all the edge off their subsequent work.” 

“I am aware these little books don't last long even if they are a success.”

On well-being:

“All outward forms of religion are almost useless, and are the causes of endless strife. Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.”

“What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood?” 

beatrix potter

Five things you didn’t know about Beatrix Potter

  • Later in life Potter became an award-winning sheep farmer
  • She kept a journal written in secret code which was only cracked in 1958
  • The author originally wrote the story of Peter Rabbit in a letter to her ex-governess’ son, Noel, to cheer him up when he was ill. "My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits  whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton--‐tail and Peter."
  • When Potter first wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she sent the manuscript to six publishers, and received six rejections
  • Potter was a keen letter-writer and would send pictures to her young fans using miniature mail bags and a tiny tin post box