Helen Beatrix Potter, known as Beatrix, was born on 28 July 1866 to Rupert and Helen Potter in Kensington, London. Her younger brother Walter Bertram followed six years later. Both Beatrix and Bertram loved to draw and paint, and often made sketches of their many pets, including rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards, snakes and a bat.
Beatrix was always encouraged to draw, and she spent many hours making intricate sketches of animals and plants, revealing an early fascination for the natural world that would continue throughout her life. Although she never went to school, Beatrix was an intelligent and industrious student, and her parents employed an art teacher, Miss Cameron, and a number of governesses, including Annie Moore, to whom she remained close throughout her life.
Two of Beatrix’s earliest artist models were her pet rabbits. Her first rabbit was Benjamin Bouncer, who enjoyed buttered toast and joined the Potter family on holiday in Scotland where he went for walks on a lead. Benjamin was followed by Peter Piper, who had a talent for performing tricks, and he accompanied Beatrix everywhere.
Potter Beatrix kept a whole host of pets in her schoolroom at home—rabbits, hedgehogs, frogs, and mice. She would capture wild mice and let them run loose. When she needed to recapture them she would shake a handkerchief until the wild mice would emerge to fight the imagined foe and promptly be scooped up and caged. When her brother Bertram went off to boarding school he left a pair of long-eared pet bats behind. The animals proved difficult to care for so Potter set one free, but the other, a rarer specimen, she dispatched with chloroform then set about stuffing for her collection.
Beatrix died in 1943, leaving fifteen farms and over four thousand acres of land to the National Trust.