The 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth this summer is already kicking up a host of merchandising possibilities that might appear to come under the rubric of ‘cashing in’.
And that’s not forgetting the new 50p Peter Rabbit coin which is already in circulation and selling on eBay for 40 times its face value.
Coloured versions of the coin originally costing £55 are now changing hands for over £600.
Writing at a time when the human cost and economic vulnerability that underlay Britain’s imperial project could no longer be ignored Potter shows us a world where there is one cardinal rule: eat or be eaten.
On the very first page of her very first book Peter Rabbit is sent out to play with the terrible maternal warning to be careful because ‘your father had an accident; he was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor’.
Tom Kitten meanwhile is turned into a sausage roll wrapped up in pastry by two triumphant-looking rats who are anticipating a particularly splendid dinner.
Nor in Potter’s world is there any point in looking to adult lawgivers to put things right and kiss things better.
Jemima Puddle-Duck – an experienced mother – is obliged to stand by helplessly while her eggs are stolen by Mr Tod ‘a foxy person’.