Literary and Artistic Career
Beatrix was a student of classic European fairytales including the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. She also read the Old Testament, Scottish mythology, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. She studied the illustrative styles of Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott. She began illustrating her favorite stories, including “Cinderella", “Red Riding Hood" and the work of Joel Chandler Harris.
In the 1890s Beatrix and her brother began printing and selling their own cards for Christmas and other occasions. Beatrix's drawings and paintings, chiefly of mice and rabbits, caught the eye of booksellers. Hildesheimer and Faulkner bought several drawings of her pet rabbit, Benjamin, to accompany the verses of Frederic Weatherly in A Happy Pair. She would sell more drawings for others' books and felt sure she could create her own.
While on holiday, Beatrix would send letters with drawings or paintings to her friends. Many of these went to the children of her former teacher, Annie Moore. One to her son Noel featured a story about “four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter". Annie encouraged Beatrix to publish these pictures and words.
In 1900 Beatrix wrote and illustrated her tale of the four bunnies. She was unable to find a buyer so she printed it herself for friends and family. Hardwicke Rawnsley took interest in the book, rewrote it in verse and shopped it to publishers himself. Frederick Warne and Company reconsidered their earlier rejection. They purchased the book but chose to print it in Beatrix's original prose.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was an immediate success. Beatrix would continue to work with Warne and Company, with Norman Warne as her editor, publishing a total of 23 books over two decades.
Beatrix seized the popularity of her bunny by patenting a Peter Rabbit doll. She followed it with other merchandise, including tea sets, wall paper and baby blankets. These products were quite profitable for her and her publisher.