This biography is particularly revealing about Potter’s relationship with the family of her publisher, F Warne & Co. You could blink and miss the timid romance that blossomed between Potter and Norman Warne. His sudden death in 1905 was the catalyst for Potter’s first great act of independence — the purchase of Hill Top Farm in Lancashire. By the end of her long life (she died in 1943), the profits from all those rabbits and mice had been spent on nearly 4,000 acres of unspoilt countryside, which she left to the earliest incarnation of the National Trust.
The picture on the cover shows Potter in her final incarnation — the plump, white-haired sheep farmer, comfortably married to the local solicitor. Dennison’s clever, searching account of her life shows the incredible fight she had to make herself into the kind of woman she wanted to be.
Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter by Matthew Dennison, Head of Zeus, 262pp, £18.99