Unseen letters by author Beatrix Potter go on sale for £5,000

Previously unseen letters penned by Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter as she praised her friend’s baking skills and blasts land girls for earning £11 a fortnight go on sale for £5,000

  • Three letters dating back to 1935 have gone on sale for an estimated £5,000
  • She praises a neighbour’s cake, and talks about gardening during the war
  • She also criticised the amount she was having to pay a girl in the land army  

Three fascinating previously unseen letters penned by the celebrated children’s author Beatrix Potter have come to light.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit writer, who was also a livestock farmer, discusses cakes, gardening and her forthright views on women’s pay in the war.

Expressing views unlikely to endear herself with today’s feminists, she states the amount forestry girls were getting paid was ‘absurd’ and ‘upsetting’ to the men of the community.

The correspondence and unpublished snaps of Potter in her garden are being sold by a descendant with 1818 Auctioneers, of Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

The first letter, dated 1935, was sent by Potter to her friend Maggie Watson, who owned the tearooms in a neighbouring village. In it, she compliments her on her cake, describing it in rich language befitting of a Great British Bake Off judge

They are tipped to sell for £5,000.

The first letter, dated 1935, was sent by Potter to her friend Maggie Watson, who owned the tearooms in a neighbouring village.

In it, she compliments her on her cake, describing it in rich language befitting of a Great British Bake Off judge.

The correspondence and unpublished snaps of Potter in her garden are being sold by a descendant

She writes: ‘You have surpassed yourself! We never expected to see such a Hawkshead cake again. The crisp delicacy of the pastry and succulence of the syrup.

‘You did not leave your skill behind when you moved to another house.’

Another letter, penned by Potter in 1940, thanks Maggie’s sister Sissy Watson, who taught at the village school, for the gift of five primula roots.

The green-fingered author, who owned Hill Top Farm near Sawrey, says she will plant them in a raised bed over rubble.

The final letter in the sale, dated July 4, 1942, is also addressed to Sissy.

In it, she tells of having recruited a land girl to help her on her farm, which was turned over to the Government for its Dig For Victory campaign.

She observes that ‘a much better class’ was joining the land army, but that the amount she was having to pay her was ‘a lot for a small farmer to pay a beginner’.

Potter then turns her attention to the amount women doing forestry work were getting paid, adopting a highly critical tone.

Another letter, penned by Potter in 1940, thanks Maggie’s sister Sissy Watson, who taught at the village school, for the gift of five primula roots, saying she will plant them in a raised bed over rubble

She writes: ‘The wages paid to the forestry girls are most absurd. The woman doing piece work is said to be receiving £11 a fortnight.

‘It is upsetting the men to hear of such a wage.’

Later in the letter, she acknowledges that she needed help with the farming as she is getting ‘slow’ and ‘tired’.

Her words were prescient as she passed away the following year aged 77.

David Brookes, auctioneer at 1818 Auctioneers, said: ‘It is interesting to get an insight into the life of this remarkable woman and a privilege to bring previously unknown items into the public domain.

‘I particularly like the 1935 letter, referring to the crisp delicacy of the pastry and the succulence of the syrup, on a cake.

The final letter in the sale, dated July 4, 1942, is also addressed to Sissy, in which she tells of having recruited a land girl to help her on her farm

‘It is very ‘Bake Off’ and so current 76 years after her death.’

Liz Hunter-MacFarlane, house and collections Manager for the National Trust at Hill Top Farm, said Potter was a ‘prolific’ letter writer with ‘strong opinions’ on any matters relating to land and agriculture, as well as women’s wages.

She said: ‘Beatrix Potter was a prolific writer and her letters provide an insight into her views on various different issues.

‘She certainly had some strong opinions on farming and agriculture, having bought her first property in the Lake District in 1905.

‘She kept buying farms until she amassed almost 4,000 acres by the end of her life.

‘She was a very independent women who was very wealthy from the royalties from the books and licensing agreements.’

Potter’s most famous book, The Tale of Petter Rabbit (1902), has been translated into 36 languages and sold 45 million copies.

After her death in 1943, she left her 14 farms and 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust on the condition her favourite home, Hill Top at Sawrey, was opened to the public and left unchanged.

The sale takes place on June 3.

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