"Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter." This is the introduction to one of the best-loved children's stories of all time - The Tale of Peter Rabbit. However, the story of how Beatrix Potter's most famous character came to have a book published about him is another tale entirely.On September 4th, 1893, Beatrix sat down to write a picture letter to Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her ex-governess, all about a naughty rabbit called Peter. Noel was ill in bed and so Beatrix wrote to him: "My dear Noel, I don't know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits..."Some years later, Beatrix thought of publishing the story as a book. She rewrote it into an exercise book and sent it to six publishers. It was rejected by every one of them. It was not until Beatrix had arranged to print the book privately that Frederick Warne agreed to publish it. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1902, costing one shilling and became one of the most famous stories ever written. Though Beatrix always believed in her book, even she was surprised by quite how popular it became. It was an overnight success, and she believed that this was because the story had originally been written for a real child. Peter Rabbit has always been Beatrix Potter's most popular character - he also features in The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies, and The Tale of Mr. Tod.
Did you know that Beatrix Potter really owned a pet rabbit called Peter?
In 1903, Beatrix published two more books with Frederick Warne, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester. She had become a regular visitor to the Covent Garden offices of her publishers (in London) to discuss her books, and most of her dealings were with Norman Warne, the youngest son of the late Frederick Warne.Norman was the only unmarried son in the Warne family, and was a devoted uncle to his nephews and nieces. He and Beatrix became friends, and Beatrix became a welcome visitor at the Warne family home. Beatrix was delighted when she received a letter from Norman asking her to marry him, and though her parents did not approve of the match, she was determined to accept him. However, the wedding was not to be, for soon after the engagement, Norman fell ill and died of pernicious anaemia within a few weeks. Beatrix was devastated. She wrote in a letter to his sister, Millie, "He did not live long, but he fulfilled a useful happy life. I must try to make a fresh beginning next year."
Beatrix had always loved the Lake District, and now, with the money she was earning from her Peter Rabbit books she was able to buy Hill Top Farm in the village of Sawrey. She kept on the farm manager, John Cannon, and invested in a flock of Herdwick sheep. She could not stay in her beloved new home because she was expected to take care of her parents in London, but it was her first step to independence, and she visited it whenever she could.Many of Beatrix's later books were set at Hill Top - the rats that infested the farm inspired The Tale of Samuel Whiskers; Tom Kitten and his sisters climb up the rockery wall at the bottom of Hill Top garden; and Ginger and Pickles' shop is set in Sawrey village.
ONCE upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.
'Now, my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.
'Now run along, and don't get into mischief. I am going out.
Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker's. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns.
Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries: But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!
First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes; And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.
But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!
Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, 'Stop thief!'
Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate. He lost one of his shoes among the cabbages, and the other shoe amongst the potatoes.
After losing them, he ran on four legs and went faster, so that I think he might have got away altogether if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net, and got caught by the large buttons on his jacket. It was a blue jacket with brass buttons, quite new.
Peter gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.
Mr. McGregor came up with a sieve, which he intended to pop upon the top of Peter; but Peter wriggled out just in time, leaving his jacket behind him. And rushed into the tool-shed, and jumped into a can. It would have been a beautiful thing to hide in, if it had not so much water in it.
Mr. McGregor was quite sure that Peter was somewhere in the tool-shed, perhaps hidden underneath a flower-pot. He began to turn them over carefully, looking under each. Presently Peter sneezed - 'Kertyschoo!' Mr. McGregor was after him in no time.
And tried to put a foot upon Peter, who jumped out of a window, upsetting three plants. The window was too small for Mr. McGregor, and he was tired of running after Peter. He went back to his work.
Peter sat down to rest; he was out of breath and trembling with fright, and he had not the least idea which way to go. Also he was very damp with sitting in that can. After a time he began to wander about, going lippity - lippity - not very fast, and looking all around.
He found a door in a wall; but it was locked, and there was no room for a fat little rabbit to squeeze underneath. An old mouse was running in and out over the stone doorstep, carrying peas and beans to her family in the wood. Peter asked her the way to the gate, but she had such a large pea in her mouth that she could not answer. She only shook her head at him. Peter began to cry. Then he tried to find his way straight across the garden, but he became more and more puzzled. Presently, he came to a pond where Mr. McGregor filled his water-cans. A white cat was staring at some gold-fish, she sat very, very still, but now and then the tip of her tail twitched as if it were alive. Peter thought it best to go away without speaking to her; he had heard about cats from his cousin, little Benjamin Bunny. He went back towards the tool-shed, but suddenly, quite close to him, he heard the noise of a hoe - scr-r-ritch, scratch, scratch, scritch. Peter scuttered underneath the bushes. But presently, as nothing happened, he came out, and climbed upon a wheel-barrow and peeped over. The first thing he saw was Mr. McGregor hoeing onions. His back was turned towards Peter, and beyond him was the gate! Peter got down very quietly off the wheel-barrow, and started running as fast as he could go, along a straight walk behind some black-currant bushes. Mr. McGregor caught sight of him at the corner but Peter did not care. He slipped underneath the gate, and was safe at last in the wood outside the garden.
Mr. McGregor hung up the little jacket and the shoes for a scare-crow to frighten the blackbirds.
Peter never stopped running or looked behind him till he got home to the big fir-tree. He was so tired that he flopped down upon the nice soft sand on the floor of the rabbit-hole, and shut his eyes. His mother was busy cooking; she wondered what he had done with his clothes. It was the second little jacket and pair of shoes that Peter had lost in a fortnight. I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter! 'One tablespoon to be taken at bed-time.'
But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries, for supper. THE END.
~The Tale Of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter~