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Sioux City Journal from Sioux City, Iowa • 14

Sioux City, Iowa
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2 The Sioux City Journal, Wednesday, May 5, 1993 Beatrix Potter's endearing bunny is 1 00 years old, translated into over 20 languages Kerr M1 NEAR SAWREY, England (AP) He's the despair of his mother, a sneak thief with a huge appetite for contraband vegetables and a naughty habit of losing his clothes. But to millions of children, Peter is the world's most popular rabbit. At 100, he's the oldest, too. "My dear Noel," wrote his creator, Beatrix Potter, to a sick young friend on Sept. 4, 1893, "I don't know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mop-sy, Cottontail and Peter.

She included whimsical ink drawings of the little creatures and of Mr. McGregor, the farmer who lost his lettuce and his temper because of the gluttonous Peter. Noel's letter became "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," theTirst of 23 Beatrix Potter tales which have endeared children of all ages from Tokyo to Turin and Tacoma. Generations of small readers have wondered breathlessly whether Mrs. McGregor will get to put the cheeky Peter in a pie, marveled at the dexterity of hedgehog washerwoman Mrs.

Tiggy-Winkle, and gasped at Squirrel Nutkin's maritime exploits. "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" has sold more than 10 million copies in the United States alone and has been reprinted more than 250 times. Potter books have been translated into over 20 languages, including Japanese and Afrikaans, and Beatrix Potter memorabilia is a multimillion-dollar industry. Flood of tourists The little books, inspired by her love of animals, gave Potter the wealth to preserve large tracts of the Lake IJistrict. But her fame has added to the tourist flood which threatens the fabric of the fells.

Seventy thousand tourists come each year to Hill Top, Potter's tiny house in Near Sawrey village, to see the room filled with personal treasures where the writer created many of her tales. Climbers follow her footsteps across the rugged, pristine peaks around Near Sawrey to enjoy some of the 4,000 acres of land that was her legacy to the nation. Plump Herdwick sheep grazing the high fells testify to her work in building up stocks of this long-haired breed indigenous to the Lake District. And long before Britain had a state health service, Potter endowed a charity to provide a district nurse for all the ailing of the Near Sawrey area. i animated series that premiered on the Family Channel this spring.

(AP Photo) This Is a scene from "The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny," one of a new six-part pressed her with his passionate op- Norman Warne, the son of her position to mass tourism and en- publisher. Two months later, before croaching industry. they could marry, he was dead of From an early age, Potter kept a pernicious anemia, menagerie of pets, including a In grief, she turned to Hill Top hedgehog called Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle farm, which she had bought earlier and mice Hunca Munca and Tom that year, spending more and more of Thumb. She also had a rabbit named her time on her beloved hills with her 1 Peter, a natural subject for her letter growing sheep flocks.

In 1913, aged 47, she married local to Noel Moore, the son of her former governess. Demand grows Publishers were slow to spot Peter's commercial value and in lawyer William Heelis, and moved to nearby Castle Cottage, retaining Hill Top for writing. Local benefactors It was too late for children of their Beatrix Potter stands outside her home, called Hill Top, in Near Sawrey, England, around 1905. (AP Photo) December 1901, the author published 250 copies of "The Tale of Peter own, so the Heelises became local Rabbit" herself, giving them away as benefactors, always ready to lend a fortunes Helen Beatrix Potter was born on July 30, 1866. "My brother and I were born in London because my father was a lawyer there," Beatrix wrote later.

"But our descent our interests and our joy was in the north country." delight." "Her penetrating gaze could alarm the intrusive," wrote her friend and fellow artist, D.H. Banner. "But it was those eyes which had observed the creatures that she drew with such a sure hand and such exquisite taste. Her solidity was the basis of her freedom from sentimentality." Some in the valleys still remember her. "She used to always go about in little polished clogs, with a tweed skirt and a sort of velvet hat," said George Birkett, 74, who often ran into Potter at agricultural shows in the 1930s, which he attended with his farmer father.

Birkett, who later was a tenant-farmer on High Tilberthwaite one of Beatrix's bequests, recalls "a very outgoing woman, a jolly sort of a person." She was devoted to the local good, he said. "When she hired someone for one of her farms, she always made sure it was someone who could be useful to the community." She was determined, sometimes irascible. A new National Trust exhibit, at Keswick records her arguments with neighboring farmers who failed to mend boundary walls. And; Frederick Warne received sharp reminders if her checks were late. As summer approaches, tourists' clog the dark, wood-paneled rooms at Hill Top, gawking at Potter's col-1 lections of china and paintings before repairing for a pint to the nearby! Tower Bank Arms pub featured in "The Tale of Jemima Pud-' die-Duck." They also throng nearby! Hawkshead, where Heelis' old law; offices house examples of Potter's "I'm only in the Lake District; because of Beatrix Potter," confess--ed Sandra Boudrou of Park Utah.

"She's part of my childhood." "To us, Beatrix Potter is exotic," said Japanese tour guide Michii Christmas gifts. She could not keep field for a village celebration or buy up with demand. costumes for the local team of folk Frederick Warne Co. later dancers. Among other kindly acts, agreed to publish the book and went Potter drew pictures for a fund-rais- on to publish the rest of the tales in ing drive by the Invalid Children's Potter's chosen format, 4 inches by Aid Association.

5 Vi inches, ideal for tiny hands. In between, she walked the By the end of 1903, more than mountains, usually swathed in a 50,000 copies of Peter Rabbit had countrywoman's baggy tweeds, been sold. "What an appalling quan- Local legend has it that a vagrant, tity of Peter," Potter exclaimed in passing her in pouring rain one day her diary. and taking her for a fellow traveler, She had no similar success with remarked, "Tis a terrible day for the her studies and drawings of plants likes of thee and me, missus!" and fungi, which were turned down After her death in 1943, Frederick by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Warne inherited her shares in the Kew. company and on her husband's death In 1905, Potter became engaged to received all rights and royalties to Dunkeld, Scotland, were an important influence.

"The woods were peopled by the mysterious good folk," enthused Potter in her journal. "The Lords and Ladies of the last century walked with me along the overgrown paths, and picked the old-fashioned flowers among the box and rose hedges of the garden. In the summer of 1882, the Potters stayed in a house on Lake Windermere in the Lake District. There, Beatrix met Canon Hard-wicke Rawnsley, vicar of Wray and an early conservationist who im- Mother quite remote Like many other children of rich Victorian families, she was raised by governesses and nannies and saw lit- 'As a Victorian woman, she was ahead of her time," says biographer tie of her mother, a rather remote Judy Taylor. "She had great spirit woman.

Beatrix's only sibling, her and determination and she got things done." The child of wealthy parents both inherited Lancashire cotton brother, Bertram, was six years younger. Summer vacations spent at a house amid woods on the River Tay near Peter memorabilia is huge money spinner her books. She left her homes and 14 farms to the National Trust, a conservation society co-founded by her old friend, Canon Rawnsley, with instructions to preserve Hill Top. Potter left instructions for her shepherd, Tom Storey, to scatter her ashes in a secret spot close to Near Sawrey. It remains a secret to this day.

Frederick Warne edition. Wedgewood has produced an anniversary collection of nursery crockery featuring the letter on which the Peter Rabbit tale is based and Royal Doulton has made a Peter Rabbit figurine. 'In shared delight' In the United States, Schmid is of The New York Herald Tribune wrote in a tribute that her greatness lay in "the fact that she was able television, said publisher Sally Floyer. The company also helps maintain vital Potter archives and has helped fund a new National Trust exhibit in Keswick highlighting Beatrix's conservation activities. Frederick Warne promotes the ICAN charity for children with communication difficulties, which took over the work of the Invalid Children's Aid Association, a favorite Potter charity.

For the centenary, Frederick Warne has published a limited edition of 750 cased sets of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," containing hand-numbered facsimiles of the early privately printed edition and the first LONDON (AP) "I am cutting out calico patterns of Peter, I have not got it right yet, but the expression is going to be lovely; especially the whiskers," Beatrix Potter wrote in 1903 as she worked on a Peter Rabbit doll. The whiskers were made from the bristles of a brush. Ninety years later, Peter Rabbit is on everything from hand-painted eggs to chopsticks and hood ornaments on cars. Potter early realized the commercial value of her characters, and stuffed dolls, board games and ceramic figures were available in her lifetime. Today, sales of Beatrix Potter memorabilia are "well in excess of 100 million pounds ($150 million) a year," according to Nicholas Dur-bridge, managing director of licens ing agents Copyrights.

Frederick Warne Co. was bought by Penguin Books in 1983, but the English editions of Beatrix Potter's books still bear the company's imprint. The company holds all Potter's copyrights and controls licensing, through Copyrights. "We are very choosy about what we license," said Durbridge. "It's part of our national heritage and plenty of people would criticize us roundly if we did it wrong." Frederick Warne and Copyrights review every item, upwards of 2,000 a year.

Earnings from royalties are a closely guarded secret. Frederick Warne plows its profits back into the business, into ventures such as the recent $9 million production of six animated Potter tales for again and again to create that rare Azami as she led a large group of her thing a book that brings grown- compatriots around Hill Top. ups and children together in shared "That is why we love her." fering limited edition Peter Rabbit figurines, Fieldcrest Cannon have special birthday bedding and Eden Toys a facsimile of Beatrix Potter's original stuffed Peter Rabbit doll. There are also garden sculptures by Blue Moon and a collection of enamel baubles by Crown Jewelry. In September, Britain's Royal Mail will release a set of Beatrix Potter anniversary stamps with a booklet about her life.

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