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Mahon, E.J. (1998). The Remarkable Beatrix Potter. By Alexander Grinstein, M.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1995. 328 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(4):730-732.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(4):730-732

The Remarkable Beatrix Potter. By Alexander Grinstein, M.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1995. 328 pp.

Review by:
Eugene J. Mahon

While I do not find Beatrix Potter to be as remarkable as Grinstein does (when one judges her by the same standards as one would judge, say, Lewis Carroll, A. A. Milne, Hans Christian Andersen, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; she does not come close to equaling their depth, in my opinion), he does, however, make a compelling and well-researched case that her transcendence of her childhood was indeed remarkable. Her parents, even by the English standards of the last century, seem to have been more suited for the raising of livestock than children. Their wealth could insure that Beatrix would have the best governesses, but human contact with loving parents seemed unnecessary, if not excessively sentimental. The company of other children was prohibited, given the possibility of “germs.” Her younger brother would seem to be the only other child she got to know for many years! Her journal, written in code to confound the Victorian snoop-police, mentions her father a hundred times and none too lovingly. The mother is mentioned hardly at all. With these meager genetic threads, the only psychological garment Beatrix could weave for herself seems to have been depression, no small achievement, perhaps, when one considers the alternatives (autism, schizoid withdrawal, etc.). Little wonder that at seventeen her diary contains the entry: “I, seventeen. I have heard it called sweet seventeen, no indeed, what a time we are, have been having and shall have” (p. 27).

Mindful of this depression, one is still shocked by the opening sentences Grinstein uses to introduce her.

About a year before her death in 1943, Beatrix Potter wrote: “It is immaterial to give the address of my unloved birthplace. It was hit by shrapnel in the last war; now I am rather pleased to hear it is no more!”….

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