In September 2010 the elite letterpress publisher Nawakum Press published a beautiful hand-bound folio edition of Carson's first published essay "Undersea."(1937) I have provided the introduction and Julia Whitty, author of "The Fragil Edge," has written the afterword. It is an extraordinary volume with hand-colored drawings of some of the creatures Carson describes in her amazing undersea tour.
My website www.rachelcarson.org has been revised and now contains more up to date information on Carson scholarship and events all over the world. It also contains in the "in memoriam" section, small biographies of Carson's friends and associates, including those who have recently died such as Stewart Udall. More will be added and written by experts who knew them.
My new blog, "Telling Lives" (www.authorlindalear.blogspot.com)is devoted to comment on life writing and the art of telling lives --and my thoughts on some writers who should have their lives "told" as well as comments on the art and science of biography.
"Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature," the biography of the famous children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)began quite by happenstance while I was on book tour in the UK in 1999. There I discovered her botanical illustrations, her collateral interest in mycological science. I realized there was much more to this Victorian children's writer than I had ever imagined, and children's books were only the beginning. This life took eight years to prepare and was published in the UK by AllenLane/Penguin in January 2007, and by St. Martin's Press in the US by St. Martin's Press. It won the Lakeland Book of the Year prize in 2007, the most prestigious of England's regional literary prizes, the first time ever given to an American writer. The biography appeared in paper in both countries in 2008. (Do not be put off by the UK paperback which is now subtitled:"The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius.")
As a wealthy Victorian, Beatrix endured enormous obstacles as a woman who wanted to find something useful to do with her life. Ultimately she gave the world not only imaginative tales of memorable animals, like Peter Rabbit and Jeremy Fisher, which have shaped our childhood vision of nature, but also many exquisite paintings of the natural world. She was fortunate to have a real third act to her life and made the most of it. She became a country woman and prize-winning sheep farmer who used her talent and wealth to preserve the Lake District landscape that inspired her art. Her stewardship is still evident in the a large tracts of land that she donated to the National Trust.
It has been a special pleasure to be asked to lecture on Potter in the UK. As a member of the Beatrix Potter Society, a charity and literary society dedicated to Potter's life and work, I have been a frequent contributor to their quarterly newsletter. There are always new letters appearing, new art work, and new understanding of Potter's gifted work in natural science and country-side conservation.
I was honored to give the Society's most prestigious "Linder Lecture" in 2008 on "Beatrix Potter: The Men in Her Life." It has been published in the Society's commemorative edition marking the Society's thirty years.
In July 2010 I lectured at the Society's bi-annual study conference in Ambleside,(The Lake District,) Cumbria. The title was "A Crowded Universe of Small Things" and it will appear in the next edition of the Society's "Studies." Going back to the Lake District that Potter did so much to save is always a treat, and I was able to visit "Hill Top," her first farm and writerly home, now a popular house museum. I was also invited to explore the interior of Potter's home across the road in Near Sawrey known as Castle Cottage and to visit several farms in Little Langdale that I had never seen before.
Susan Albert, the fabulous mystery writer, who is just finishing her last volume in her successful nine volume series "The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter" has become a good friend and colleague. She is a wonderful researcher and it has been fun to collaborate on some of the factual details of Potter's life and to see how she mixes them into her fictional stories. Be sure to check them out. My website: www.bpotter.net is getting an upgrade, and more photos of Potter's world will be posted soon.
Perhaps the most fun of writing Potter's life was having BBC Radio4 select excerpts to read on the radio over Christmas week in 2007. BBC Radio 4 often rebroadcasts that program and it is a joy to hear because the British actress who does the reading makes sound so very authentic.
I have traveled extensively in Great Britain to appreciate and describe the places that influenced Beatrix Potter and I too, have fallen in love with the English Lake District that she worked so hard to preserve.
MY SPARE TIME
I am a member of the Board of Trustees of my alma mater, Connecticut College in New London,CT, currently serving as chair of the Committee on Academics. It has been a great honor to give back to a place that gave me so very much in life.
I was honored with the Goodwin-Niering Center Alumni Environmental Achievement Award in 1999, and have donated my manuscript materials to establish The Lear/Carson Collection there. Soon there will be a new Lear/Potter Collection added to the Special Collections.
In 2008 "The Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives" was dedicated in Shain Library. Two new reading rooms and state-of-the art book conservation facilities, new shelving, and all new exhibit space will allow greater access to the college's excellent manuscript and rare book collections. The collections are open to under-graduate as well as graduate and scholarly research. The Director is Benjamin Panciera.
In 2007, Chatham College (now Chatham University) awarded me an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Carson graduated from Chatham or as it was then known, Pennsylvania College for Women,in 1929. The university has done a great deal to raise the awareness of Carson's life and work. Its current president, Dr. Esther Barazzone was instrumental in getting the 9th Street Bridge in Pittsburgh renamed for Rachel Carson, who along with baseball great Roberto Clemente, and the artist Andy Warhol, are the namesakes of the extraordinary Three Sisters Bridges. I was honored to be part of the dedication. And similarly honored to give the first Dorothy Pontius Distintinguished Lecture at Chatham in 2009.
I live in Bethesda, Maryland and Charleston, South Carolina with my husband, John Nickum, and our four little terriers. In both places we are avid gardeners and open our historic Charleston home to house and garden tours that the city offers. We have one son, Ian Lear-Nickum, who is a graduate student in history at North Carolina State University and a singer,composer and guitarist. He is married to Dr.Lindsay Thalheim, a veterinarian specializing in cancer in dogs. They are expecting their first child. We have three daughters and with them nine grandchildren.