a little tale of beatrix potter and canon hardwicke rawnsley (+ a recipe for Lakeland Lemon Bread)

 

Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits —
and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter.

They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.

‘Now my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.’

So begins the story of Peter Rabbit, the most beloved bunny in children’s literature. It’s likely this charming tale will be enjoyed during family Easter celebrations on both sides of the pond this weekend.

Refreshments may include blackberries and milk, currant buns, lettuces, radishes, parsley and camomile tea. Other favorite Potter characters such as Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten, Jemima Puddle-duck, and Mrs. Tiggy-winkle may also get their fair share of attention, but what about Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley?

Who?

Well, it’s time you knew (if you don’t already). πŸ™‚

Rawnsley wrote the “other” Tale of Peter Rabbit. Yes, there actually was another version. And it was written in verse!

Hardwicke Rawnsley was Beatrix’s friend and mentor. They first met on a family summer holiday in the Lake District when Beatrix was just sixteen, and they remained friends for years.

Canon Rawnsley (center) with Beatrix and her family in 1887. Love how the males removed their hats and put them on the grass. Photo courtesy of the National Trust.

A clergyman, conservationist, author and poet, Rawnsley was impressed with Beatrix’s drawings and paintings, and encouraged her to write and illustrate her own book.

Cover of Beatrix’s privately printed first edition.

Since he was already a published author, he steered her towards several prospective publishers, all of whom turned down The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s Garden. He then suggested she privately print the book with her own funds. While she self-published 250 copies, Rawnsley continued to seek a commercial publisher for Beatrix’s story.

Since his book Moral Rhymes for the Young was quite successful, he thought publishers might be more receptive to a rhyming Peter Rabbit. He wrote his own version and submitted it to Frederick Warne with part of Beatrix’s revised manuscript and her b&w drawings (Warne had rejected the book before).

There were four little bunnies
-no bunnies were sweeter
Mopsy and Cotton-tail
Flopsy and Peter

They lived in a sand-bank
as here you may see
At the foot of a fir
-a magnificent tree

Now my dears said the old
Mrs. Rabbit one day
You may run to the fields
or the lane for your play
But I warn you all four
to be sure not to go
To Mr. McGregor’s
who lives just below

Your father — and here Mrs.
Rabbit shed tears —
Had an accident once in that
Garden my dears
And his end — “mummy darling”
said Mopsy “don’t cry!”
Was this — he was baked
and served up in a pie.

How do you like it?

This time, Frederick Warne expressed an interest, but not because of Rawnsley’s text. They were impressed by the success of Beatrix’s first edition, and it just so happens small-format children’s books like Little Black Sambo had become wildly popular and they wanted to get in on the action. They requested the rest of Beatrix’s prose manuscript, and they wanted color illustrations.

So it happens that in 1902, Frederick Warne published the first trade edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It has since sold 45 million copies worldwide and remains one of the best selling books of all time — about 4 books are sold every minute!

Rawnsley’s verse version was published by the BP Society in 1989, from a handwritten booklet by Potter collector Leslie Linder.

But back to our friend Hardwicke Rawnsley (he became Honorary Canon of Carlisle Cathedral in 1891). I’m guessing he didn’t much mind having his Peter Rabbit verse manuscript rejected. After all, he had lots to keep him busy, not the least of which was co-founding the National Trust (1893), and working tirelessly to protect the countryside of the Lake District, where he lived for over 30 years.

He was also active in politics, social reform and education, having taken part in establishing the first co-educational secondary school in England. When he wasn’t busy with clerical responsibilities, he managed to publish over 40 books, mostly nonfiction (many with a Lake District theme), and wrote vast amounts of verse.

Rawnsley’s Peter Rabbit verse handwritten by Leslie Linder with Beatrix’s original black and white drawing.

Rawnsley had been passionate about poetry since boyhood, and is today considered “a minor Lake poet.” He retired to Grasmere, purchasing a home William Wordsworth had lived in for 6 years.

Though he accomplished a lot in his lifetime, few outside of the UK know about Hardwicke Rawnsley. If not for his support and encouragement, would The Tale of Peter Rabbit have been published as we now know it? As a teen, Beatrix was impressed by Rawnsley’s commitment to preserving places of natural beauty and historical significance. With her book proceeds she began purchasing Lake District properties and became the National Trust’s biggest benefactor, bequeathing 15 farms — 4000 acres of pristine countryside. Thank goodness for Potter and Rawnsley’s fortuitous meeting!

Oh, did I mention Rawnsley wrote some 30,000 sonnets? We think it only fitting to share one with you today, alongside a squirrel study by Beatrix. Good to have these two friends together again. πŸ™‚

Potter’s watercolor study for Squirrel Nutkin via Swann Art Galleries. Est. net worth $30,000 – 40,000.

 

THE SQUIRREL
by Hardwicke D. Rawnsley

Light-hearted dweller in the voiceless wood,
Pricking thy tasselled ears in hope to tell
Where, under, in thy haste, the acorn fell:
Now, for excess of summer in thy blood,
Running through all thy tricksy change of mood,
Or vaulting upward to thy citadel
To seek the mossy nest, the miser-cell,
And chuckle o’er thy winter’s hoard of food.
Miser? I do thee wrong to call thee so,
For, from the swinging larch-plumes overhead,
In showers of whispering music thou dost shed
Gold, thick as dust, where’er thy light feet go:
Keep, busy Almoner, thy gifts of gold!
Be still! mine eyes ask only to behold.

~ from Sonnets at the English Lakes (Longman’s, Green & Co., 1881), Cornell University Library Collection.

from The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1904)

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β˜•οΈ A SIP AND A NOSH πŸ‹

We can tell from reading Beatrix’s stories that she was indeed interested in food. Who can forget The Roly-Poly Pudding, The Pie and the Patty-Pan, Benjamin Bunny’s penchant for lettuce, Appley Dapply’s fondness for pies? I’d love to shop at Ginger and Pickles’s store, purchase a bag of peppermints or toffees, join them for biscuits and haddock. Do you think Tabitha Twitchit would invite me to tea?

Most Potter fans know Beatrix was happiest for those three months of the year when she and her family were on summer holiday, either in Scotland or the English Lake District. She and her brother Bertram could roam the countryside and study plants and wildlife up close. Oh, the fresh air, the freedom!

When not on holiday, Beatrix especially loved visiting her grandmother at Camfield Place in Hertfordshire. This 10-bedroom mansion was set on 400 acres of farmland (and later became Barbara Cartland’s residence). It was here Beatrix got her first taste of fresh eggs, milk and homemade bread — foods she would enjoy all her life.

Because of her privileged, cloistered upbringing, Beatrix really had no cause or opportunity to learn how to cook. She really only began to experiment in the Castle Cottage kitchen after marrying William Heelis at age 47. They were quite self sufficient when it came to food, growing their own fruits and vegetables, raising sheep, cattle, pigs, ducks, turkeys, and chickens. “Willie was keen on shooting and fishing and Beatrix loved collecting wild plants, fruit and nuts from the surrounding countryside.”

Apparently during the early years of their marriage they ate a lot of bacon and plain potatoes. Combining their skills, they excelled in roasts and vegetables. For the Heelis’, traditional country cooking made with fresh produce was the order of the day.

Fancy a little tea time snack? Mr. Cornelius found a recipe for Lakeland Lemon Bread inΒ  Sara Paston-Williams’ Beatrix Potter’s Country Cooking (Frederick Warne, 1991).

Paston-Williams visited the area where Potter lived and talked to local chefs, innkeepers, home cooks and people who knew her, collecting recipes that truly represent typical Lakeland fare. Mr. Cornelius loved learning that Beatrix always ate a bowl of porridge for breakfast, that she loved her grandmother’s ‘very hard gingersnap biscuits’, and often enjoyed a good farmland tea.

Lakelanders are fond of cakes and many traditional kinds are still made and eaten in Cumbria. This moist lemon bread is one of them and must have been eaten many times by Beatrix and her husband. Traditionally, it is served very fresh, spread with lemon curd, but the loaf may be iced, if you wish, for a change.

Lakeland Lemon Bread

  • Servings: makes one 2-lb loaf
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

Ingredients

For the loaf:

  • 3/4 cup (175 g) butter or margarine
  • 1-1/4 cups (300 g) granulated (caster) sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (150 g) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup (150 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (125 g) chopped walnuts or golden raisins
  • grated rind and juice of 2 large lemons

For the Icing:

  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • about 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350Β°F.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually mix in the lightly beaten eggs, then fold in both the flours, followed by the nuts. Finally, stir in the lemon rind and juice.

Spoon the mixture into a lined and greased 9″ x 5″ loaf tin and bake near the top of a moderate oven for about 1 hour, or until firm to the touch. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. If you wish to ice the loaf, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with enough lemon juice to make a coating consistency. When the loaf is cold, spoon the icing over the top.

If not iced, serve sliced and buttered, with honey or lemon curd. The bread also freezes well.

~ adapted from Beatrix Potter’s Country Cooking by Sara Paston-Williams (Frederick Warne & Co., 1991), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup

*

 

We opted for golden raisins instead of walnuts, and decided not to ice our loaf. This lemon bread was moist and yummy, and of course, perfect with a cup of tea. It would make a nice addition to an Easter brunch menu.

We hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend. If you read The Tale of Peter Rabbit, do raise your teacups not only in honor of Beatrix Potter, but also for her dear friend Hardwicke Rawnsley!

β™₯ Other Beatrix Potter Posts at Alphabet Soup β™₯

 

🐰 HOPPY EASTER! 🐰

 

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πŸ“• BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNERS! πŸ“’

Last week we had two picture book giveaways: one for Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes, and the other for Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub and Amy Huntington.

Though the ever reliable Monsieur Random Integer Generator was busy organizing an Easter Egg Hunt at Highclere Castle, he airmailed a basket of eggs and treats with a tiny note that said, “Eggstraordinary Winners.”

 

The perky and perceptive chef, Le Lapin Rotund, sporting his handknit carrot ear warmers, knew right away to look for the winners’ names in the eggs. And here they are!

The winner of Princess and the Peas is Shaynie the Chicago Librarian!!

And the winner of Fresh-Picked Poetry is Matt Esenwine!

Congratulations to Shaynie and Matt!!

Please send your snail mail addresses to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com, and we’ll make sure you receive your books lickety split.

Thanks, everyone, for entering these giveaways. Stay tuned, as we’re having another giveaway the last week of April. πŸ™‚

*

Doraine Bennett is hosting the Roundup at Dori Reads. Hop on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies being served up in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend; hope the E.B. brings you a lot of tasty treats!

*

This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!


Copyright Β© 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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68 thoughts on “a little tale of beatrix potter and canon hardwicke rawnsley (+ a recipe for Lakeland Lemon Bread)

  1. What a perfect post for Easter weekend. Who knew?!?! I always have the urge to pull out my PR and all-things-Beatrix things for Easter, so you’ve inspired me to get a move on. It’s my first day of Spring Break, so I’ll get hopping!

    Like

    1. You can have as many pieces as you like! Glad you enjoyed learning about Canon Rawnsley. I continue to enjoy studying Beatrix Potter’s life and books. Always something new around the corner. πŸ™‚

      Like

    1. Yay! Aki is not only the most adorable bunny ever, he’s got great taste. πŸ™‚ I have the Dennison book on my Wish List. There are so many Potter books out there, and always more to learn. Fascinating stuff. πŸ™‚

      Like

  2. Sweet poem, and perfect illustrations to accompany it! Thanks for introducing me to Hardwicke Rawnsley. You’ve got my mouth watering for lemon cake!

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  3. I have the recent Potter bio, and have not opened it yet! I imagine that Mr. Rawnsley is in that story of Beatrix Potter, among other gems. Your post certainly is a gem today, Jama. I love seeing all the rabbity & friends photos gathered. And 30,000 sonnets, wow! What gifts that Ms. Potter with the help of Mr. Rawnsley gave us. I have the grand-girls today, must get out the Potter books! Thank you!

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    1. So glad you’ll be reading Potter books with the grandgirls today, Linda. What could be more perfect for Easter time? I couldn’t believe it when I saw that he wrote 30,000 sonnets. He’s still considered a “minor Lake poet” though.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know — 30,000 sonnets is unbelievable! Glad you enjoyed these tidbits — I’m always interested in learning more about Beatrix. πŸ™‚

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  4. Thank you for this lovely post! The lemon bread sounds wonderful. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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  5. My boys loved it when I read Peter Rabbit and other Beatrix Potter tales to them when they were little. Thank you for bringing back those memories, and for introducing me to Hardwicke Rawnsley. I have trouble enough with one sonnet. I can’t imagine writing 30,000! Happy Easter, Jama!

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    1. I know, 30,000 sonnets! And he did so many other things at the same time — and no computers. Nice hearing that you used to read these books to your boys, Catherine. How lucky they were. πŸ™‚

      Like

  6. I do love Peter Rabbit. I read something recently about Beatrix Potter and how she always portrayed the reality of nature where her creatures are part of the food chain and they seriously might be eaten. That lemon bread is awfully tempting!

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    1. Yes, I read that too, which makes her even more interesting. She didn’t shy away from reality when it came to portraying animals — no sugar coating. I think that’s why kids love her stories.

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  7. Hmmmm…not only am I craving lemon bread now, I also have an urge to dive into some Beatrix Potter research! Thanks for another wonderful, rich post!

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  8. So much deliciousness. That lemon bread looks like it would melt in my mouth. I have long loved Peter Rabbit and have an unfinished assignment from one of my English professors (for Romantic poetry) to hike the Lake District with Wordsworth’s journal and poetry in one and and my journal and pen in the other. Of course, I wanted to sneak in some Beatrix Potter, too. Now it looks like I might finally make it next year when I visit my daughter who will be studying in England for the spring semester.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, wow! That sounds exciting — both for you and your daughter. Lake District adventures! What a beautiful part of England. I really enjoyed my college class in Romantic poetry. Hope you blog all about your trip. πŸ™‚

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  9. Your house must be a treasure-trove of delights, Jama. I adore your posts for their themed authenticity and attention to detail. I had not read Canon Rawnsley’s rhymed (cotton)tale before. It is quite delightful – but I can’t regret Beatrix Potter’s original version.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I have fun with these posts and like playing with my toys and dishes whenever possible. πŸ™‚ I think we’re lucky that Warne didn’t like Rawnsley’s verse version. Can’t imagine the story of Peter Rabbit in any other way than Beatrix’s.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jama, this is a delightful post for Easter weekend. While preparing for my daughter’s baby shower (1st grandchild and it’s a girl), I am mesmerized by the deliciousness of your PF blog. You will be happy to know that I took out my Tales of Peter Rabbit for the shower and placed Peter Rabbit stuffed animals all over. If I get any free time the lemon bread sounds like a great addition to my baking regime. Have a wonderful Easter and I can’t wait until you present another delectable treat for us.

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    1. A Peter Rabbit themed baby shower is the best! I see a lot of good ideas for those on Pinterest. The lemon bread would make a nice addition to your menu, which I imagine will also contain something with carrots in it. Happy Easter and have fun at the shower!

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  11. I loved all the backstory. I had no idea. Very interesting about Peter Rabbit’s Other Tale. And I can’t believe that 4 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit are sold every minute. That’s amazing. The lemon bread sounds yummy!
    Love all the pictures in the post. You’re an artist when it comes to arranging the “sets” for your features.
    Happy Easter, Jama.

    Like

    1. It’s quite something to sell 4 copies per minute — even after all these years that it’s been in print. Thanks for liking the pictures. I’ll tell the resident photographer, Mr. Cornelius, who’ll be pleased that you approve. πŸ™‚ Happy Easter, Penny!

      Like

  12. Hoppy Easter to you, too! I loved Miss Potter, the movie. Have you seen it? Good for her for buying up land with her money and then leaving it to the National Trust. What busy people, her and her friend, the Canon. Excellent to read, getting me in the mood for Easter.

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    1. Yes, I saw the movie a couple of times. There’s also a documentary with Patricia Routledge that came out last year which I’m hoping my local PBS station will air at some point. I saw it once on youtube but it was taken down shortly afterwards.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, Jama, this is wonderful. I’ve always loved Beatrix Potter!! One of my treasures is a little boxed set of her books, well worn from many, many loving reads by so many children. I appreciate your account of Potter and Rawnsley’s friendship– remarkable! Who knew, The Tale of Peter Rabbit in verse! And your yummy looking lemon bread made my mouth water. I have marked your page to return.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I treasure my boxed set of PR books; it’s my favorite new baby gift too. πŸ™‚ I think Warne made the right decision in selecting Beatrix’s prose version of the story over Rawnsley verse, which somehow seems to lack the same dramatic tension and pathos. One gets caught up in the sing-song lilting aspect of it and somehow that takes away from the suspense of Peter’s peril.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. A fabulous post as always, Jama. You bring poetry and literature, culture and lemon cake to life for me today. One of my best memories of childhood is Peter Rabbit. Thank you for bringing me back to it.

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    1. Glad to hear you’re also a PR fan, Linda. I didn’t really read these books until I was an adult, so it was nice you read Peter’s story when you were little.

      Like

  15. Four copies per minute–that’s incredible! But somehow not surprising.

    Such a fun post, Jama. Insightful, informative, beautiful words and images, and above all, FUN! Happy Easter to you and yours. xo

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  16. First of all, I want to be a fly on the wall when you do your photo shoots. Is it as much fun to do as it is to view on your blog?!?!

    And this, about Beatrix Potter: “With her book proceeds she began purchasing Lake District properties and became the National Trust’s biggest benefactor, bequeathing 15 farms β€” 4000 acres of pristine countryside.” You. Go. Girl.

    30 THOUSAND sonnets? Holy moly.

    Thanks for bringing Hardwicke Rawnsley to light. BP wouldn’t be BP without him!

    Like

    1. The photo shoots are both fun and harrowing, definitely time consuming. I take these pictures on the dining room table. Half the table is clear for me to set things out, the other half is a jumble of props. Of course we never get to eat in the dining room anymore. πŸ™‚

      I can’t think of any writer who so wisely used money earned from books than BP. Such foresight and dedication. Her friendship with Rawnsley bore fruit in many ways.

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  17. Jama…I absolutely always look forward to your facebook posts…but haven’t looked at your blog until today! Wow…I’ve been missing a lot! I enjoyed your article as well as the lovely photos! I have to admit that although I thought I knew a lot about Beatrice Potter,…I really didn’t!. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Anita! So great to see you here. Please visit again, as we’re setting a special place at the table just for you. Mr. Cornelius is happy to meet you. πŸ™‚

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  18. I love Peter Rabbit and friends! And I agree that the lemon bread would be awesome with golden raisins instead of nuts. Thanks for this great post — I loved the poems and revisiting Potter and the beautiful illustrations. Now how am I going to be able to eat my chocolate bunny…. poor Peter!

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    1. I admit we have several chocolate bunnies but I won’t be eating any of them. I sort of feel the same about gingerbread boys. Lemon bread, no problem! The golden raisins worked out well; not overly sweet.

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  19. What a delightful Easter post, with your charming photos, background on Beatrix Potter, plus a lemon bread treat! I’m interested in The Story of Fierce Bad Rabbit, hadn’t read that one.

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  20. You have written such a detailed post on Potter — I love her too, but never learned so much. My favorite sentence is when they implore Peter Rabbit exert himself! Lemon cake: a perfect choice.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Glad to hear you’re also a Potter fan, Mae. Peter is hard to resist; I guess everyone can relate to his naughtiness. πŸ™‚

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  21. What a wonderful post! I listened to a podcast about Beatrix Potter on the History Chicks and was absolutely fascinated. I’ve always enjoyed the stories but knowing a little more about her made it even more interesting and of course now I need the cookbook! I love your figurines and the lemon bread looks delicious.

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    1. The more I learn about Beatrix, the more I want to know. This is my first recipe from this particular cookbook; I’ve made other things from the smaller children’s cookbooks.

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  22. Oh such treasure here! You are a blogger extraordinaire. I loved this book so in childhood. You truly took me home. Your posts are simply a joy in beauty, learning and delight. I’ve missed many of late tending to family, but know if I have some time, this blog of yours is here to mine. And to share with students. I will do a long term starting in may. I will share this for sure. I love learning about the prolific and talented Canon Rawnsley’s verse and life. 30,000 sonnets?????? Wow. Your pictures are perfect for this morning! Happy Easter, Jama
    Janet Clare F.

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    1. Thanks so much for the lovely comment, Janet! So glad you dropped by this morning. Peter and all his rabbity friends are happy to see you. It really is unbelievable about all those sonnets he wrote. I was thinking even more amazing is the fact that they’ve probably been preserved somewhere, or else how could they have counted them? Did he keep a million notebooks full of his poetry? No flash drives for him. πŸ™‚

      Hope you have a very Happy Easter and a good time with your students this Spring.

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  23. That’s was quite an education on Rawnsleyand I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. Lovely photos you have, as always, and informational post.

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  24. HellO, Dear Jama, and bunnies and squirrels and bears. Sorry to be late – got lost in the countryside. Thank you SOOO much for this post. I knew some of these details but NOT about the rhyming version… And, 30,000 sonnets?! Probably didn’t seem a “minor” task to our friend Rawnsley.
    Hope you had a lovely Easter – XO

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    1. Yes, even after writing 30,000 sonnets they still had the nerve to call him a “minor poet”! If you must get lost, the countryside is the best place. Hope you made a few new animal friends.

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