Secret Diary


Andrew Finlay Mackenzie (1846–1940)
Studio portrait of Beatrix Potter, ca. 1892
Albumen print on gilt-edged, lithographed card
V&A: AAD/2006/4/472, Given by Joan Duke
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Rather than securing her private thoughts in a locked journal, Beatrix devised an elaborate code to encrypt her life-writing as a teenager. What follows is an entry from the spring of 1884, taken from the page on display in front of you:

Minehead, Thursday, April 24th, 1884

We had a splendid drive round by Dunster, Timberscombe and Cutcombe to Dankery Beacon. We did not go right up to the Beacon, but over the brow of the hill the view was splendid in spite of the haze. Looking South over the upper Exe Valley it was not very interesting, but northward to Wales over the long narrow strip of Channel it was very fine. I was particularly struck by the horizon appearing so high. I must have often before seen the sea from higher mountains round, which makes the elevation seem less.

The scenery was very beautiful going down into the Horner Valley, but I think the descriptions of it exaggerated the size. To any one who has seen Scotland and the Lakes both woods and river appear on a very small scale. Going through the oak wood and past Cloutsham Hall, which is anything but round, we rested at the farm, and came home through Luccombe. Unfortunately we saw no deer, though a herd of thirty-one had crossed into the valley the night before, and were living in the Horner Woods.

Truly we are kept going; now when the dynamiters let us alone old mother earth gives us an explosion. I wish I had been in London to feel it slightly. One does not often get a chance of feeling an earthquake fortunately, in nature that is to say, for domestic ones are only too frequent.