Thursday, October 17, 2013

"In the Very End of the Harvest!"

This week commemorates the 100th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's marriage. 

Helen Beatrix Potter married William Heelis on October 14, 1913 in St. Mary Abbott's Church in Kensington.  She was 47; he was 42.

If you know anything of Miss Potter's life story, you may already know that her first love, Norman Warne, died suddenly before their engagement was made public.  Her parents did not approve.  Norman, her editor at Frederick Warne & Company, was in the trades.  Their opinion was sadly made moot, as Norman died in 1905  Here is Norman shown with one of his nephews, an image from Margaret Lane's biography The Magic Years of Beatrix Potter, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Norman Warne with a nephew, circa 1900

Seven years later, despite initial parental objections, Miss Potter married Mr. Heelis, a solicitor from Hawkshead who had helped her with some of her property transactions.  Here is a picture of Beatrix and Willie, as she called him, on the eve of their wedding.  It was taken in the back garden of 2 Bolton Gardens, her parents' home in London.  Once again thanks to Wikipedia, and to Judy Taylor's biography, Beatrix Potter: Artist, Storyteller, and Countrywoman.
Beatrix Potter and William Heelis, October 13, 1913
Of her marriage, Beatrix wrote to an American friend quoting (roughly) Shakespeare, "Spring came to you at the farthest, in the latter end of the harvest."  By all indications, theirs was a happy marriage.  Perhaps partly because Willie did not interfere with her gardening projects.  The National Trust recorded oral histories from those who remembered Beatrix and Willie.  Harry and Ethel Byers, who had worked for Heelises, remembered Willie helping out with planting seeds, but only in the vegetable garden.

It does seem better, as a wise gardener once told me, if married couples who garden do so in separate beds.

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