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Lessons we can learn from the creator of Peter Rabbit


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An artist, an environmentalist, and a very astute businesswoman: Beatrix would have been more at home in a modern laboratory than a Victorian drawing room.

The 28th of July marked 153 years since the birth of one of the world’s best loved children’s writers. Her rebellious little rabbit in his blue coat has become one of the most iconic figures of children’s literature, and the franchise continues to grow with the release of new films and merchandise. 

The books themselves may educate children on the dangers of not listening to their mother or eating too much lettuce, however there is a great deal that adults can learn about life and how to live it from this extraordinary woman.

Image credit: Plum Skins via Flickr

Be brave.

"We cannot stay home all our lives, we must present ourselves to the world and we must look upon it as an adventure." She challenged the expected path of a wealthy Victorian woman, and was not content with the idea of marriage and society life.

Beatrix was inspired by nature and animals: her passion for her subject matter was intensified by her studies in art, literature, and science. She developed a deep interest in fungi and presented a paper to the Linnean Society, but because she was female and an amateur her theories were rejected. Never be afraid to try new things or follow your interests, and explore your own passions without waiting for the approval of others. 

Keep trying.

The original Peter Rabbit books were rejected by six publishers before Beatrix decided to publish the books herself. An initial run of two hundred and fifity books proved so popular amongst Beatrix’s friends and family that Frederick Warne Publishing revised their initial rejection and took over the publishing of her future books. Today more that one million copies of the little books have been sold worldwide. Proof that perseverance, determination and self belief really do pay off.

Be kind to animals and the environment.

Beatrix’s ensured the conservation of Herdwick sheep and the protection of land in the Lake District from developers. Her independent wealth allowed her to on her death bequeath 15 farms and over 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust, so that future generations could enjoy their beauty. Beatrix was concerned about the impact that humans were having on the natural world long before the phrase ‘climate change’ had ever been thought of. Take responsibility for your impact on the natural world; find a cause and be passionate about it.

Visualise through difficulty.

"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."

Visualisation and meditation are core ideas running through self-help books, and are used by athletes and CEO’s the word over. Beatrix was doing these things long before they were fashionable in the Western world. Visualisation is concentrated dreaming. It’s mind over matter. It’s constructing life from a space inside our brains and allowing us to imagine and then strive to achieve, as Beatrix did, our wildest dreams.

Quietly believe there is a great power.

'Work towards all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.' With little time for organised religion, Beatrix believed that extreme views only led to conflict and difficulty. In our challenging modern climate, heading her advice can only make the world a kinder, more tolerant place to live.

Be original.

Beatrix did not attend school and always felt that a formal education would have limited her creativity. She was an entirely self-taught artist and consequently developed her own unique style. Schools and universities teach a national curriculum. Students leave with qualifications; the same ones that everyone else has achieved from studying the same content. Beatrix would tell us to follow our own path. Be yourself; develop what makes you, you. 

Don’t lose your child-like spirit.

Beatrix created a magical world where animals wore clothes, talked and had adventures. It's an escape into the world of the imagination. As adults it’s easy to take ourselves and our busy lives too seriously. Never lose interest and enthusiasm in the everyday and see the magic in the ordianary – carry the spirit of a child within you always.

And finally...

Seize opportunity to do good.

A rebel with a cause, Beatrix was determined to make something meaningful of her life. The creatures in her books are constantly breaking rules, escaping from dangers and refusing to conform to the stereotypes of their species. Beatrix lived her life in the same way; shunning repressive Victorian values, publishing books, buying farms and living a worthwhile life full of purpose. She left behind a legacy that will delight children and inspire adults for years to come.  

Lead image credit: Plum Skins via Flickr

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