Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter’s Secret Diary

It’s Easter week, Holy week, the week when Christians celebrate Resurrection Sunday. It’s also the week when children eagerly anticipate the arrival of the bunny.

Of course, the most famous bunny is Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter’s timeless creation. Did you know that “The Tale Of Peter Rabbit,” received multiple rejections before it was finally published? More than 45 million copies have been sold in more than 35 languages, and the book has never been out of print.

Now here is something you probably don’t know—

When Beatrix Potter was fifteen, she began a journal written in a secret code of her own invention. Even Beatrix herself, when she read back over it in later life, found it difficult to understand.

The only surviving entries of this diary are between 1881 and 1897. Unlike other secret diaries – which held secrets that could ruin careers or cost lives – this diary was personal, expressing feelings that she wished to hide. It is commonly believed that the code was to save it from being read by her mother, with whom she did not have a good relationship.

But Emma Laws, the Frederick Warne curator of children’s literature at the Victoria and Albert Museum, thinks differently.

“A lot of things in the diary would not be seen as right for a Victorian girl to mention. It contained much bitterness and disappointment,” she says.

Ms. Laws admits however, that no-one can ever be quite sure. “It could also be her imagination. There is sense of creativity devising a code.”

The code was cracked by Leslie Linder, a lifelong collector of Beatrix Potter artefacts. The documents were not found until the middle of the 1950s, and the mystery was not solved until 20 years after Beatrix’s death: on Easter Monday 1958.

[Text credit: “The Secret Code of Diaries” by Alex Hudson. BBC Radio. 29 August 2008]

Tuesday 17 November, 1890

“I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common-sense, to fear no longer the terror that flieth by night, yet to feel truly and understand a little, a very little of the story of life.”

If you’d like to read more, the decoded journal is available as a book published in 2006 by Penguin Young Readers. You can find and read an excerpt here on Amazon.com.

Until next time, I wish all of you a blessed Holy Week,
and I hope you’ll find a copy of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” 
AND a copy of the journal
in your Easter baskets.

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1 Comment

Filed under Children's Literature, Famous Authors

One response to “Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter’s Secret Diary

  1. How neat! I hadn’t realized that Beatrix had created a diary in code! What creativity!

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