JOHN Taylor was the Sawrey joiner and wheelwright, whose wife and stout, elderly daughter, Agnes Anne, kept the village shop immortalised by Beatrix Potter in Ginger and Pickles. But the first Taylor to appear in one of her books was his son, young John, who was the model for the terrier carpenter John Joiner in The Roly Poly Pudding.
When that book appeared in 1908, Old John professed to be
jealous of his son's fame. In a good-humoured manner, Miss Potter
gently and humorously asked how she could include the now invalided
father in one of her tales if he "insisted on living in bed?", but
shortly afterwards received a note which read, "John Taylor's
compliments and thinks he might pass for a dormouse".
How could she refuse? In the following year Old John became Mr
John Dormouse in Ginger and Pickles, a book she dedicated to her
old friend, but who sadly didn't live to see it in print.
The forthcoming film on the life and work of Miss Potter, starring
Renée Zellweger, may or may not inspire a new entry of collectors
into an already well-established and strong market, but this is
just the sort of thing that Miss Potter's countless fans
A first edition copy of The Roly Poly Pudding that sold for £3000
to Peter Kay in a Dominic Winter sale of December 6 is the one that
Beatrix Potter inscribed to Old John Taylor and his wife in
December 1908, the book that stirred the bed-bound old man into
thinking that he might pass as a dormouse.
By Ian McKay
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.