Peter Rabbit was a figment of the imagination of the very creative Beatrix Potter. The author was born in 1866 in Victorian Kensington London. Her home was large and sumptuous, her family rich. She was raised with several servants, a shy girl who wiled away many hours of every day by herself. Beatrix Potter learned many artistic things from her governess. She taught the writer about music, art, reading and writing. Her only other regular company was her full time nurse. Beatrix Potter had one brother. Bernard, six years her junior was away at boarding school most of the time and Beatrix’s companion only during the summer months.
June, July and August Beatrix Potter and Bernard Potter together relished the outdoors of Scotland’s Lake District, where the family spent its holidays. Bernard and Beatrix ran through woods and fields, chasing wild animals and sometimes catching a few. They drew sketches of their favorite wild creatures living in their natural habitats. From these ideal summer days grew Beatrix Potter’s adoration of wildlife and the natural outdoors. One local influence and adult friend, Canon Rawnsley, vicar of the Scots Lake District, captured her attention with his stories about how tourism and manufacturing can destroy the environment.
The Potter parents were overprotective of both Beatrix and Bernard. They discouraged their son and daughter from making any friends of the other local children their age. Beatrix and Bernard became closer to each other because of this. Together they created a vast pet collection from the wild creatures of nearby fields and woods. They kept these creatures in their own school room. There were times when Beatrix Potter and brother Bernard were caregivers from a lizard, several water newts, a snake, a rabbit, a turtle and a frog – all at the same time. As the two siblings cared for the habitat, they sketched them as well. From these creature friends and their sketches grew the animal characters of the Beatrix Potter books.
Benjamin Bouncer was Beatrix Potter’s favorite animal pal. Benjamin was Peter Rabbit’s predecessor. Beatrix found him in a London bird shop. She kept the purchase from her mother and father, sneaking him into her nursery in a paper bag without telling anyone except Bernard. She devised a story around Benjamin of a bunny that loved hot buttered toast and used to run quickly into the living room every time the tea bell rang. He knew tea time meant toast time too.
Peter Piper, another Beatrix Potter creation, came from the antics of Beatrix and Bernard’s favorite buck rabbit. They bought the bunny in Belgium, and noted that this particular rabbit loved to lie on the rug in front of the fireplace hearth. The Potter tales told of a Peter Piper that learned tricks quickly, jumped through hoops, rang bells and played the tambourine.