The Original Peter Rabbit Letter


Beatrix Potter (1866–1943)
Illustrated letter to Noel Moore, September 4, 1893
Pearson PLC
Image courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.


The Tale of Peter Rabbit originated as one of Beatrix Potter’s memorable picture letters. With some encouragement from a friend, she transformed this private letter into one of the world’s best-known children’s books. One page of the letter can be seen framed on the wall, and the rest can be read on the nearby touchscreen or heard in the following reading:

My dear Noel,

I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.

They lived with their mother in a sand bank under the root of a big fir tree.

“Now my dears,” said old Mrs. Bunny, “you may go into the field or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden.”

Flopsy, Mopsy & Cottontail, who were good little rabbits, went down the lane to gather blackberries, but Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden and squeezed underneath the gate.

First he ate some lettuce, and some broad beans, then some radishes, and then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley; but round the end of a cucumber frame whom should he meet but Mr McGregor!

Mr McGregor was planting out young cabbages but he jumped up & ran after Peter waving a rake & calling out ‘Stop thief’!

Peter was most dreadfully frightened & rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate.

He lost one of his shoes among the cabbages and the other shoe amongst the potatoes. After losing them he ran on four legs & went faster, so that I think he would have got away altogether, if he had not unfortunately run into a gooseberry net and got caught fast by the large buttons on his jacket. It was a blue jacket with brass buttons, quite new.

Mr McGregor came up with a basket which he intended to pop on the top of Peter, but Peter wriggled out just in time, leaving his jacket behind, and this time he found the gate, slipped underneath and ran home safely.

Mr McGregor hung up the little jacket & shoes for a scarecrow, to frighten the black birds.

Peter was ill during the evening, in consequence of overeating himself. His mother sent him to bed and gave him a dose of camomile [sic] tea, but Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.

I am coming back to London next Thursday, so I hope I shall see you soon, and the new baby. I remain, dear Noel, yours affectionately

Beatrix Potter