Beatrix Potter accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ using African slave tales to inspire Peter Rabbit

She created some of the most beloved children’s stories in British history, writing characters like Peter Rabbit, Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.

During her sensational career, Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated 28 books, including her 23 Tales which sold over 250 million copies worldwide.

In her later years she became a farmer and sheep farmer and helped protect thousands of acres of land in the Lake District.

But she has now been accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ by an academic, who claims her iconic tales were ‘more than inspired’ by folk stories told by enslaved Africans on American plantations.

Born July 28, 1866 in Kensington, London, Beatrix was the only child of heirs to the cotton fortune.

Beatrix Potter, pictured alongside her dog, was born on July 28, 1866 in South Kensington, London. She is pictured at her Lake District home, Hill Top, in 1907

For much of the first 47 years of her life, she lived in her family’s home at 2 Bolton Gardens.

His family was well connected. Edmund, Beatrix’s paternal grandfather, had become wealthy by establishing a successful calico printing business at Dinting Vale in Glossop, Derbyshire. He later became Liberal MP for Carlisle.

And Beatrix’s maternal grandfather, John Leech, was a merchant who inherited a cotton mill in Stalybridge, Cheshire.

But growing up, her childhood was lonely, sometimes brightened by long vacations in Scotland or the Lake District – trips that inspired her love of animals and painting.

On one such trip to Scotland, at the age of 27, Potter sent a animal story to a sick child of a former governess, about four rabbits named Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter.

It proved so popular that at age 35 she decided to publish it privately as Tales of Peter Rabbit in 1901. The following year it was published commercially by Frederick Warne & Company and went turned out to be a resounding success.

Over the next 20 years a further 22 books were produced, beginning with The Tailor of Gloucester (1903), The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903), and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904).

Beatrix Potter has written and illustrated 28 books, including her 23 Tales which have sold over 250 million copies worldwide.  Peter Rabbit (pictured) was one of his most acclaimed

Beatrix Potter has written and illustrated 28 books, including her 23 Tales which have sold over 250 million copies worldwide. Peter Rabbit (pictured) was one of his most acclaimed

“What an appalling amount of Peter,” she remarked, in her typically dry style at the time.

In 1902 she met the first love of her life, Norman Warne – who was the son of her publisher, Frederick Warne.

In July 1905, at the age of 39, she was secretly engaged to Norman, who was 37. Her parents, shocked that their daughter was thinking of marrying “in commerce”, did not approve of the marriage . But Beatrix would not be upset.

She went on holiday with her parents to North Wales. On August 24, she wrote a letter to Norman – “a silly letter about my rabbits and the cane I was going to get him to beat his wife”, she noted in her diary – but he was never to read it. .

The next morning she received a telegram informing her that he was seriously ill. That afternoon he died of leukemia, before she could go see him.

She later wrote in her diary, “I’m so glad I wasn’t on time now, I should have only cried and upset him, and I’m sure he would have called me if he wanted me to.” had wanted.

After his death, she spent much of her time alone at Hill Top, a small farm in the picturesque Lake District village of Sawrey, purchased with the proceeds of an inheritance and royalties from her books.

In 1913 she married her lawyer, William Heelis, and spent the last 30 years of her life expanding her farm and raising Herdwick sheep.

The house and its land were then bequeathed to the National Trust.

Along with his love of writing and painting, Potter also studied fungi closely, even writing a paper on spore germination which was read to nature experts at the Linnean Society in 1897.

Beatrix Potter died on December 22, 1943, aged 77.

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