Monday, 28 August 2017

A Tale of Beatrix Potter, Manderley, Rain and Roses.

You may be wondering why I'm starting this post with a picture of a house. You might even be questioning what the house has to do with Beatrix Potter. To be honest there isn’t much of a link other than it's where I found the book I will be sharing later in this post.

Nymans House West Sussex

Actually, there is another connection. I took the photographs at Nymans a National Trust property in West Sussex. Beatrix Potter was a writer of children’s stories, a Lakeland farmer, conservationist and a benefactor of the National Trust. On her death, she left 4000 acres, fifteen farms, forests and houses to the National Trust. Sadly, this house is not one of them, but it is a link of sorts. OK it's tenuous but it does sort of tie in. 

Rose and Bee at Nymans

Nymans NT West Sussex

Nymans became a National Trust property in 1953 although the story really began in 1870, when Ludwig Messel and his family moved to England from Germany. A family of Jewish descent they arrived when anti-Semitism was rife but despite that, Messel carved out a successful career as a stockbroker and by 1890 had the means to purchase Nymans and shortly after he, and his head gardener James Comber set about creating the gardens.

Sadly, much of the house is in ruins after a disastrous fire in 1947, but the surviving rooms give a fascinating insight into the life of the Messel family.

The ruins reminiscent of Manderley as immortalised by Daphne du Maurier in Rebecca.




The story of Nymans is well documented online, so I won't trouble you with too many details. But I would like to mention a couple of members of the family. Firstly, Anne Messel (later Countess of Rosse) renowned beauty and socialite and mother of Anthony Armstrong-Jones, who in 1960 Married Princess Margaret and became the Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley. The connection between Nymans and the Royal Family came as a complete surprise to me. I was twelve going on sixteen when Margaret and ‘Tony’ got married, obsessed with The Beatles, Mary Quant and miniskirts.  All that changed when a Royal Wedding was announced and before long pictures of the happy couple started to jostle for space on my bedroom walls. Where John, Paul, George and Ringo once reigned supreme now there was a Princess and her beau. 

Anthony Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones


Messel family photographs on the piano.
Messel family photographs on the piano. 

When we eventually left the house the rain had come on in droves hence we made a beeline for the coffee shop. Once suitable fed and watered Terry decided he wanted to take a few photos in the garden while I chose the dryer option and made a dash for the gift shop. Dozens of people were milling around seeking shelter from the rain, but their voices faded as I immersed myself into the world of Beatrix Potter.

The Story of Beatrix Potter by Sarah Gristwood
The Story of Beatrix Potter by Sarah Gristwood


The Story of Beatrix Potter by Sarah Gristwood
The Story of Beatrix Potter by Sarah Gristwood

Bestselling biographer Sarah Gristwood follows the twists and turns of her story, from childhood to her tragically brief first engagement and her happy marriage late in life. She traces the creation of Beatrix’s most famous characters – including naughty Peter Rabbit and cheeky Squirrel Nutkin and reveals how she drew on her own childhood pets and homes as the basis for her stories. Within a few years, her books were appearing all over the world and the merchandise industry, so familiar today, was gathering momentum.  

Hunca Munca with her babies.
Hunca Munca with her babies.  From a book on my bookshelf.

Although she had a younger brother, Beatrix was a lonely child, educated at home and kept away from other children by her parents. A brief engagement to her publisher Norman Warne ended within weeks when he died from leukaemia. Eventually, aged 47, she married William Heelis, a Lakeland solicitor, with whom she lived until her death in 1943.

Beatrix taking Benjamin Bunny for a walk
Beatrix taking Benjamin Bunny for a walk in the vegetable garden where he would graze on the cabbages.  Page 43 The Story of Beatrix Potter by Sarah Gristwood

Proceeds from her books and merchandise plus a legacy from an aunt gave her the means to purchase Hill Top Farm. In the following decades, she became a conservationist and a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick Sheep. She continued to write but her diminished eyesight, and her enthusiasm for farming meant that The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, published in 1930, was the last little book.


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Further reading:

If you would like to know more about the Messel family or discover the history of Nymans why not visit Nymans/National Trust

The Story of Beatrix Potter: Sarah Gristwood: Published in the United Kingdom in 2016 by National Trust Books.  ISBN 9781909881808

For anyone wishing to know more about Beatrix Potter's work, I recommend The Writings of Beatrix Potter written by Leslie Linder.  It contains facsimiles of fourteen picture letters, including the Peter Rabbit letter to Noel Moore, which started it all. The correspondence between Beatrix Potter and her publishers shows how involved she became in the production of her books, and it sometimes reveals unexpected aspects  of her character - she once lectured Warnes (the publisher) for being 'a great deal too much afraid of the public' for whom she never cared 'one tuppenny-button'. Nevertheless, she was very particular about her writing, often revising the same story until it was to her satisfaction; several of these versions are quoted, including the privately printed edition of The Tailor of Gloucester.  A valuable feature for book collectors is the Appendix section, which will help to identify first editions. The copy I have is a second edition from 1971 but there could well be an updated version available now. A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter: Leslie Linder: Frederick Warne & Co Ltd London and New York. ISBN 0723213348


A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter: Leslie Linder:

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in South-East Asia and Texas, stay safe.

50 comments:

  1. I have read several biographies of Beatrix Potter. A rich and rewarding life - despite her parents and the tragedy of her first engagement.
    One of the favourite books I read about her explores her love of gardening and plants and shows how the passion was reflected in her work (Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell).

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    1. Thanks very much, I will be looking out for a copy of Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; I love anything like that.

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  2. I've just been off to find six Beatrix Potter
    books, l bought in a Charity Shop some years
    ago..l paid a pound each for them...when l got
    them home, had a look on line, and were worth
    five pounds each...! :).
    I've just suddenly remembered that my daughter,
    grabbed them...I must quiz her about them!
    I think they were all Peter Rabbit books, that
    is worrying me now! Not that l read books of
    course..can't be doing things like that...so l
    wait for the films to come out...Like these.....

    The Tale of Peter Rabbit
    The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
    The Tailor of Gloucester
    The Tale of Benjamin Bunny
    The Tale of Two Bad Mice
    The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle
    The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher
    The Tale of Tom Kitten
    The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
    The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies
    The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse
    The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes
    The Tale of Pigling Bland
    The Tale of Samuel Whiskers
    The Tale of Ginger and Pickles
    The Tale of Johnny Town Mouse
    The Tale of Mr. Tod.
    And...Their ALL available here....

    https://sites.google.com/site/beatrixpotterstories/beatrix-potter-movies

    HaHa! I see you've a photo of one of the Royal families
    number one alcoholic...I'll keep my opinion of her....
    to myself...! :).

    So, l'm afraid there is'nt an author out there who makes
    any money from me buying books...l don't buy books! Only
    children's books for my daughter, which l have kept, and
    have a little read from time to time, with the adjoining
    pictures...! Must have pictures! :).

    And..The best picture, besides the two pink flowers, is
    the one of Beatrix, walking her bunny..Benjamin...! Lovely!
    P.S. Notice Barbara...I've refrained from any mention, in
    eating the said Benjamin...! :0).

    And..I echo your thoughts and prayers for Texas...! Bless!

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    1. Dear Willie, I was waiting for you to mention Benjamin and eating in the same sentence – and you didn’t let me down! He he

      Poor old Margaret, I think perhaps her unhappy life led to the alcohol problems. Of course, none of that worried me much when I was a young girl. I thought she was beautiful and glamorous just like her sister, and I was a little in love with A A-Jones.

      Thanks for the link to all those films I will enjoy checking them out.

      I’m very proud of those two flower photos. I took them before it started raining, Terry got some lovely ones covered in rain drops, but I’m a bit of a fair-weather photographer and would always rather spend time with a book.

      I hope your daughter has the Beatrix Potter books safe somewhere, I’m sure she will have and she will put your mind at rest when you speak to her.

      I hope you are enjoying this lovely weather. xx

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  3. What a wonderful post, you have made me home sick for England.... I will try to get that book about Beatrix Potter, sounds good. Thanks for the infos about the Messel family and their beautiful home. Have a great week, hugs, Valerie

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    1. Sorry about that Valerie, perhaps you can come for a visit? I don’t think I did the book the justice it deserves. It is really beautiful and well worth getting if you can. Hugs Barbara.

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  4. Good morning dearest Barbara! Beatrix Potter, for many, is the beginning of a childhood journey into the wonder of books and nature. For me, I didn't have a chance to encounter her magic until I was an adult and since that first meeting of similar minds, her inspiration has not left me. Her blending of nature and humanity have melded them into one experience of dressed, talking animals that are not cartoons, but just as they are in nature, only, they speak! I see the same thing in nature. I dream of being somewhere else sometimes and to me, animals have these lives where they go about their businesses, as we do....I love this place in my imagination where I live, and I suppose she did too.

    A lovely landscape to inspire anyone, is this British countryside, and how fortunate you are to be there dear friend. Hugs to you, Barbara!

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    1. Dear Anita, I know how busy you are getting ready for the start of term, so it is lovely of you to take the time to visit me. I think you are absolutely right about Beatrix. Her animals and nature were her life, and she had a way of sharing that with all of us. How lucky we are to still be able to inhibit that world she created.
      I feel very fortune today Anita. The sun is shining, and it’s really warm – my bones and I appreciate it.
      Have a lovely week.

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  5. A most lovely place to spend the day! Beatrix Potter is so worthy of admiration and respect. I so love her illustrations! I don't have any of her books, but I certainly read them (or had them read to me) as a child.

    Where I live in Texas, all is well. However those along the coast and in Houston have serious problems. It's going to be a long clean-up.

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    1. Hi Bish, I was happy when I read your post and relieved to know you are all OK. The images on TV look awful.
      I think most of us discovered Beatrix Potter at a very young age though being read to, but I’ve only recently started collecting them and reading them again.

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  6. How fascinating. I knew nothing about her background. Did she do her own artwork?
    Thanks for sharing, Barbara.

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    1. Hello Sandra, indeed she did. You can see some examples of her work on the Victoria and Albert Museum website http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/beatrix-potter-the-art-of-illustrating/ or just about anywhere else online.

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  7. Dear Barbara - I adore Beatrix Potter. Have read her biography by another author (can't recall who - now). Loved seeing the home of the Messel family. Lovely post...thanks for sharing. Have a super week. Hugs!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Debbie. I knew nothing at about the Messel family when we arrived, it was fun finding out and sharing. Thanks for coming over, and enjoy the rest of your week.

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  8. I've recently joined the Beatrix Potter Society and am considering their tour to her home next year. Very excited to even think about it, even if it doesn't happen. I love her art and I try to channel her talent when I paint. (It doesn't work but I try!) Meanwhile, what a gorgeous home this is. I remember that wedding as well -- what a lovely bride Margaret was.

    Meanwhile, thank you for your visits to Marmelade Gypsy. I'm far behind in visits, having just returned from traveling but I really appreciated all your kind words. Brought a smile to my face, they did!

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    1. How lovely Jeanie I would like to take that tour. Your artwork is beautiful but that is because you are very talented, so I don’t think you need to channel anyone. I really enjoy your blog and must come over and catch up with your latest posts just as soon as I can.

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  9. I learned so much about Beatrix Potter reading your post. And you've piqued my interest in finding out more about her life. The Nymans' home is charming in spite of the damage. I love the stone facade and the grounds have to be beautiful. Thank you for giving us a tour today.

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    1. I actually think the damage enhances the charm of Nymans, there is something very romantic about ruins in a beautiful setting. I’m sure the family didn’t think that at the time of the fire, but it somehow looks right all these years later. Thank you for taking the tour!

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  10. Superb, informative blog! As usual! Gosh! What I missed as a child! Still, no regrets I was happy in my own way.

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    1. Thank you, I’m very pleased you enjoyed it. I’m sure your childhood was just as exciting/interesting as mine, just in a different way perhaps.

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  11. What a wonderful place to visit and an interesting story :)

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    1. It really is worth a visit if you ever get the chance Nikki. I loved it.

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  12. The outside of the Nyman's home looks beautiful. I really love the flowers too. I learned so much here today about both the Nymans (and their connection to the royal family) and Beatrix Potter. I read Beatrix Potter's stories growing up- but I really didn't know much about her.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Stephanie, Thanks for reading my rather rambling post. Nymans is a very beautiful place and well worth visiting.

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  13. What a fantastic post, Barbara! Your photos have truly delighted me today! Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. It was my pleasure Linda, thanks for taking the time to read it.

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  14. Gorgeous photos, as ever, and Beatrix Potter has brought back some memories. When I was a little girl, I'd dress up in my red wellies as 'Jeremy Fisher' - he was my favourite character for some reason. And a bit later, my brother and I had a board game which included Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Squirrel Nutkin and Jeremy Fisher. It was called 'Peter Rabbit's Race Game' and I see there is one on ebay:
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Peter-Rabbits-Race-Game/292113843879?_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIM.MBE%26ao%3D2%26asc%3D45730%26meid%3Dbce4397407ca434cbaa0e77b8cff7d51%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D2%26rkt%3D6%26sd%3D112530231022&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851

    Later, I had a boxed set of the books, which I used to read to my son. He loved Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, as well as the story of the shop - Ginger and Pickles. I also still have a little Peter Rabbit china mug that I bought him!

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    1. Hello Sue, thanks for sharing your memories, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. Thank you also for the link to the game on eBay. It is quite expensive, but I wonder if you are tempted to bid. Our son had a mug and a plate with Bunnykins characters when he was small. They are still in one of our kitchen cupboards, and Steve is in his forties!

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  15. Wonderful post, Barbara! I love anything about Beatrix Potter and your book recommendations look great. And that Nyman estate is gorgeous(as are your beautiful flower pictures)! I think I recall that Beatrix's father was a photographer. Thanks to him there are so many fascinating pictures of her life. The one of her walking her rabbit is one of my favorites. Have you seen "Beatrix Potter A Journal" published in 2006? It's a big, fun book with lots of lift-the-flap surprises. Thanks for sharing all this (love the piano room picture, too!)

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    1. Hello Marcia, I’ve not seen Beatrix Potter A journal, but I will be looking out for it. It sounds wonderful.
      You are quite right about Beatrix’s father; he took up photography in the 1860s when it must have been a relatively unusual hobby. Thank goodness he did or we would not be able to look back at her life in the same way.
      Thank you for your kind words about the photographs. The trouble is I look at those taken by Terry and end up being dissatisfied with mine. :-)

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  16. I used to read Beatrix Potter stores to my daughter before she was kidnapped by FaceBook. She really loved them and I, possibly, loved them even more.

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  17. Thank you Barbara for this interesting post! I love the picture of Benjamin Bunny, going for a walk on a leash! How cute! Big Hugs!

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  18. Can you imagine having 4K acres and 15 farms to leave as legacy? It boggles the mind.

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    1. It does boggle the mind, but I could cope. Half an acre would be quite nice!

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  19. Thank you for this interesting post and these photos. I liked reading through this!

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  20. What an interesting post Barbara. Lots of information I did not know. I love the picture of Beatrix Potter take I got Benjamin bunny for a walk so cute.

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    1. I love that picture too Shashi. The book is stuffed full of photographs and illustrations but that one is my favourite.

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  21. Hi human, Barbara,

    I take great delight in reading Beatrix Potter stories to my human dad. I really enjoyed this pawst and read it to my human dad.

    Your informative articulation in this article was a very good read. My human dad needs to go to more National Trust places. I know that he needs to get out more.

    Thank you for this, my lovely human friend, Barbara.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny :)

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    1. Dear Penny,
      You are quite right your dad really does need to visit more National Trust Places – plus he could take you for a walk at the same time. He might need to take a picnic though as they might not let you into the food places. Some trust properties will and some won’t, which always makes me cross. Coffee shops are not just for humans!
      Thank you for reading my post and sharing it with your dad, you are a very good dog!
      Love to you and to Gary.

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  22. It's always so wonderful to see the history tied to a novel we've read and an author, and you opened my eyes with so much knowledge. Love it! The home is absolutely amazing! Happy Thursady!

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    1. Hello RO, I can’t claim to have any prior knowledge of Nymans but the guides were wonderful informative and Sarah Gristwood did a great job of telling Beatrix Potter’s story. Thanks for coming over, enjoy the rest of the week.

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  23. Oh my goodness, I've fallen in love with that rounded turret. Simply divine, I can imagine me filling in full of wonderful books.

    Such a fascinating post and one from which I've gone away having taken so much. Thanks Barbara.

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    1. Oh yes Tracy that would be wonderful! A turret, a comfy chair and books what more could one want?
      Thanks for your very kind comment. Barbara

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  24. Well I liked the tenuous links you used in this post ... it was a great read and lovely photo's too.
    Always been a fan of Beatrix Potter ...

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan, I really appreciate your kind comment. There are a lot of us Beatrix Potter fans around :)

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  25. Goodness, does the whole of England look like that? Beautiful stone houses, blooming gardens, rain, and coffee shops. I love this, Barbara. Absolutely love it.

    Will keep a lookout for "The Story of Beatrix Potter." I read another picture book on her some time ago: "Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of A Borrowed Guinea Pig" by Deborah Hopkinson. It was warm and delightful. :) I shall learn from her spirit of not caring about the public one tuppenny-button. xoxo C.

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    1. I’m glad you noticed the tuppenny-button quote Claudine. It really made me smile.

      I can’t say the whole of England looks like this but large parts of it does. We are not without inner-city centers and urban sprawl but get out into the country, and it still looks just the same as it did years ago. Which probably explains why I love it so!

      I’m going to keep a look out for "Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of A Borrowed Guinea Pig" because it really does sound delightful. Thanks for sharing it dear Claudine. xxx

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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