Sunday, September 7, 2008

Picture Letters ll

First page of Beatrix Potter's letter to Noel Moore of 4 September 1893 - telling the story of Peter Rabbit for the first time.

The Tailor of Gloucester
Cover (later)

The success of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit was partly based on her study, the real lovable rabbit of hers, Peter. Beatrix also did watercolours of the gardens, the potting shed, the tools, plants, nature and so the connection to the human activity of gardening entered the story. This success encouraged Beatrix to explore the picture letters and other ideas she had based on real life human endeavours. Consider her second and third books the Tailor of Gloucester & The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. The picture letter about squirrel nutkin to Norah Moore formed the basis of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. It was an elaboration of an earlier letter to Noel about squirrels adventures on a river. All that summer(1901) she studied the red squirrels in the grounds of Lingholm, Derwentwater in the Lakes District of Cumberland, a favourite holiday place of the Potters.

Concurrently Beatrix worked on the other story based on a tale she had heard in Gloucester about a poor tailor in that town. The tale was about the tailor who went home leaving an unfinished suit only to return after the weekend to find it finished except for one buttonhole with a note 'there was no more twist' and then for him to conjecture that the "fairies" had completed it.
The tale was based on an actual tailor in Gloucester. Beatrix visited Gloucester to search out the shop and did studies of both the exterior and interior and features of the tailoring trade. In Beatrix's story the mice were the jolly tailors who completed the waistcoat sans buttonhole in return for the tailor saving them from a cat. This was to be her much loved Rhyme book much in the style of Caldecott and Crane whose work she admired. The rhymes were Christmas rhymes recited by carollers. The 18C costumes on display at South Kensington Museum where she went to do studies set the period although initially she went to study the owls there.
Beatrix again decided to go the route of self publishing and privately printed 500 copies. Warne was again to take up the book and publish them. A deluxe edition was published. The covers were fabric sought out by Beatrix from a mill in the Potter family.
Tomorrow the Pre-Raphaelite connection.