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“Exert yourself!”

I mentioned yesterday that I thought children were conservative in wanting to conserve the best of the past and the present. Though they have very little past behind them, they fervently adopt the deep family traditions.

Children also want to be brave. That’s what every British children’s author instinctively understood whether they were writing about hobbits and elves, rabbits, knights, pirates, Hogwarts, Alice going through the looking glass, an allegorical lion or ordinary children messing about with boats.

Beatrix Potter, whose estate has sold more than 300 million books and underwritten the conservation of 4,000 acres in the Lake District, wrote about small animals for very small children, but she also understood the concept of bravery.

As she tells the story of Peter Rabbit, Farmer McGregor was hunting down Peter who was caught in a net. Thinking the game was up, Peter burst into tears.

Peter’s sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows.


Who flew to him in great excitement and implored him to exert himself.

I like that message. Hope the British government hears it.