The Tale of Patty & Jeremy

            They co-authored the article, Patty and Jeremy–fitting, they thought, since their names are also the names of Beatrix Potter characters.  Patty taught children’s literature, Jeremy biology.  After a trip to Hill Top Farm, Patty returned to their university excited to read Potter in a new way.  “Beatrix Potter’s life and art,” she told Jeremy, “is a naturalist’s diary, full of plants and animals typical of the time.  When we walked the public footpath nearby, we saw a sign asking for anyone who had seen a dormouse or a nest to please let authorities know.  I guess they’re endangered now, certainly rare.  Yet Mrs. Dormouse is right there in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles, just as dormice were everywhere in Potter’s time.” 
            Together they studied Potter’s diaries, her art, her books.  They looked for natural detail. Jeremy particularly loved her fungi drawings from the Armitt Collection.  He and Patty convinced themselves that Potter besides writing wonderful stories for children, she was also chronicling landscapes:  animals and plants, stone and sky.  “Preserving everything for us,” they wrote, “just as women make preserves from the fruit in their gardens, just as Potter herself became a preservationist in her life, leaving so many farms and buildings to the National Trust.”  Jeremy argued for Potter’s role as botanist.  Patty read and re-read the books, convinced that Potter was doing more than anthropomorphizing animals.  “She was exploring their essential qualities,” Patty wrote.  “She was making them memorable even as they were disappearing, as animals are disappearing from our landscapes everywhere.  She was not sentimentalizing, but making the animal sentient.  In this, she is precursor to the contemporary animal rights movements, just as she was precursor to environmental protection.”
            Patty and Jeremy illustrated their article lavishly and sent it to literary and scientific journals.  After years of submissions, revisions, and rejections, they met one last time.  They drank chamomile tea, clinking their cups together and agreeing not to venture into that garden again.









Plant on castle wall

Wilfred Owen petal


Bust of Wordsworth


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