The Life of Beatrix Potter, by Matthew Dennison

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’

The Life of Beatrix Potter

Dennison, Matthew

Book – 2016
Publisher: London, Head of Zeus,, 2016.
ISBN: 9781784975630
Characteristics: 262 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 22 cm

Even as a child I don’t recall reading any of Beatrix Potter’s stories but seeing that Matthew Dennison wrote her biography I was keen to see his style again. As for his book, “Queen Victoria, A Life of Contradictions”, the writing is very concise and informative with many words needing a look up in the dictionary.

It’s always interesting to learn about where highly creative people come from and their environment that helps to shape them. In Beatrix Potter’s case she and her younger brother led a very sheltered life with almost no contact with other children thanks to their protective and very wealthy parents.

The only friends she had were the imaginary ones she found in her many pets including rabbits. She gave them human traits and drew them in scenes as if they were people. Her drawing and painting skills were highly advanced, due to natural talent, but also because of the art education she had access to thanks to her family’s wealth.

Botanic Artist

Foxgloves painted around 1900, by Beatrix Potter.
Foxgloves painted around 1900, by Beatrix Potter.

Early on Beatrix developed a skill in capturing plants and later animals in great detail.

Later Life

Free from her parents’ domination Beatrix married her publisher by the time she was in her late 40’s.

Tragically she lost her brother Bertram to alcoholism, losing her only immediate family.

Hill Top Farm

As a child Beatrix spent many holidays in the Lake District and it is no doubt that the beauty of the area helped develop her interest in plants and animals.

As a wealthy and successful author she could afford to buy Hill Top Farm, a beautiful rural property in the Lake District. Beatrix spent much effort and money meticulously redesigning the farm house, grounds and gardens.

The farm was used as a backdrop for a number of Beatrix’s books.

In her will Beatrix left the property to the National Trust for the benefit of all, and as a conservation gesture.


‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, The Life of Beatrix Potter is a well written, informative biography that is a pleasure to read. Enough detail to make it interesting, but not too much to make it laborious. Beatrix’s life is presented in a way that is easy to read.

Highly recommended to those who like reading about creative talent and the forces behind its creation.

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