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Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters
Autograph letter signed, Ambleside, to Noel Moore, August 7, 1896
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on Esthwaite Lake. There are tall rushes at the edge of the lake and beds of water lilies.

I sometimes sit quite still in the boat & watch the water hens. They are black with red bills and make a noise just like kissing, when they are hiding in the reeds. They walk on the lily leaves, nodding their heads and peeping underneath for water snails. There are wild ducks too, but they are not so tame. One evening I went in the boat when it was nearly dark and saw a flock of lapwings asleep, standing on one leg in the water. What a funny way to go to bed! Perhaps they are afraid of foxes, the hens are.

There are some cocks & hens on the hill, who

The Lake District in northwest England was a vacation spot favored by the Potter family, especially Beatrix, who eventually settled in the vicinity. Here are some of her first impressions of this picturesque locale. She frequently sketched the marshland scenery around Esthwaite Water, which probably inspired parts of The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. Other picture letters contain the rudiments of that story, in which Jeremy embarks on his fishing adventures by rowing out on a river, an idea prompted by holiday excursions along the River Tay in Scotland. In the published version, however, Jeremy flirts with danger while floating on a lily pad like those depicted in this letter. Potter's experiences on Esthwaite Water may have convinced her that a tranquil pond would be a better setting for an afternoon idyll on the water, the mood broken only briefly by delightfully absurd, nearly fatal developments in a deceptively simple plot.

Beatrix Potter (1866–1943)
Autograph letter signed, Ambleside, to Noel Moore, August 7, 1896
Gift of Colonel David McC. McKell, 1959; MA 2009.8

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