Beatrix Potter- The Writer-Illustrator of the Natural World

Helen Beatrix Potter was born on this day in 1866. We all remember her for her remarkable children’s books featuring animals such as Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle but she was also a natural scientist, mycologist, prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep, farmer and conservationist. Her family had inherited the wealth that came from the Lancashire cotton mills, the infamous industry that crippled India’s textile economy. The Potters preferred to ignore their past and live a life of upper-middle-class comfort.

Beatrix Potter and her brother Bertram led a life where art and imagination held sway. They were deeply connected with animals and owned several rabbits, squirrels, bats, birds and insects. Potter’s early sketches paved the way for her future as illustrator with no rival. From a young age, she journaled and was privately tutored in astronomy, botany, entomology, etc.

She had a scientific bent of mind and her detailed drawings of fungi reveal her keen interest in pursuing her scientific passion but it was not to be.

Her keen interest in fairytales and fantasy and her wide reading enabled her to start her career as author-illustrator. She was fiercely independent and was enterprising enough to design Christmas cards and sell them.

She also wrote detailed letters filled with the germ of her future stories. One such letter to a sick child featured the famous bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter – this letter was self-published as The Tale of Peter Rabbit. After multiple rejections by publishers, her book was later acquired by Frederick Warne & Company.

She even patented the Peter Rabbit doll and introduced the idea of character-based merchandise such as wallpaper, games and toys. She authored 30 books and her books continue to sell throughout the world in different languages and were adapted in songs, films and even ballet.

Later in her life, her interests were aligned with the conservation of the Lake District where she lived with her husband.

Wole Soyinka- Doyen of Drama Who Dons Many Roles

Wole Soyinka “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence” won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. He was the first Nigerian, the first African to win this distinction. His life is a lesson to journalists and writers across the world. Wole Soyinka has never been afraid to speak his mind and he speaks not with the grating cynicism that we find on social media these days- all his speech is tempered with reason. You can watch him speak here.

While he has written extensively combining European and Yoruba tradition- plays, poetry, novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and screenplays, he is also an activist and has spent a large part of his life fighting corruption, racism and injustice. While he has won various prizes for his writing and has taught at many prestigious universities, he has also been incarcerated for his firm stand. His propensity for satire flourished in the arts but was not appreciated across the political spectrum in his home country.

Death and the King's Horseman (Student Editions)Myth, Literature and the African World (Canto)Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on EarthCollected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripide...The Lion and the Jewel (Three Crowns Books)

Soyinka has produced nearly 30 plays and this is what stands out the most in his legacy. He combines traditional pantomimes, ritualistic practices and dance with the idea of independence and regeneration.

Happy b’day Wole Soyinka!