Saturday, January 13, 2007


Peter Rabbit and the Terrible Tea Cozies

As anyone who's seen Mark Twain merchandise can attest, literary product tie-ins are not a new thing -- not even, notes Samantha Grice in Toronto's National Post, among children's literature:

[In 1903 Beatrix Potter created a] Peter Rabbit doll, outfitted in his signature blue coat and black shoes. This led to Peter Rabbit wallpaper and The Game of Peter Rabbit, which was essentially Mr. McGregor chasing Peter. "I think this is a rather good game," Beatrix wrote to Norman. "I have written the rules at some length, (to prevent arguments!) but it is very simple, & the chances are strongly in favour of Peter.".... In her lifetime, Potter oversaw and always had final approval on a wide assortment of spin-off merchandise, ranging from bedroom slippers to handkerchiefs to china tableware to Peter Rabbit hot water bottles. "She was always willing to think about a diary or a Peter Rabbit almanac, and the range of colouring books she designed had a coloured-in picture on one page and a simple outline on the other so children could learn to colour," explains Floyer.

In 1917, Potter wrote to her publisher: "The handkerchiefs are wonderful, I feel sure they'll have a good sale." In a 1922 letter she said: "The china is splendid, far better printed than the modern editions of the books." And another correspondence in 1926 illustrates how really into the swing of things she was: "The nursery articles mentioned in your letter this morning sound quite a good idea. I wonder if there is a crawling rug on the market with cut-out applique figures? I think they are not unknown. I've never heard anything more of that objectionable woman with the terrible tea cozies."

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