Paddington Bear is Published
For Michael Bond the difference between fame and fortune and a rather anonymous career as a BBC cameraman was a visit to a toyshop on Christmas Eve 1956. He spotted a bear alone on a shelf, felt sorry for it, and so purchased it as a last minute gift for his wife. Michael Bond had already published short stories, and the bear inspired him to write a series of adventures that within less than a fortnight were substantial enough to be offered to publishers as a complete book.
As is ever the case, the book - A Bear Called Paddington - was turned down by various companies, whose managers and shareholders must still be kicking themselves, as 50 years on the bear is still hugely popular, translated into more than forty languages, with book sales rapidly approaching the 40 million mark.
Paddington has entered the pantheon of great British children's literary characters: he is exotic, being from darkest Peru, and having entered the country as a stowaway (who survived on marmalade) on a ship across the Atlantic. He has charm, always polite and wanting to be helpful. And he has strength of character, perhaps best seen in his special hard stares for those who get on his wrong side.
The duffel-coated bear with his bush hat was a gift to the illustrator Peggy Fortnum, to whom some of the success of the books can be ascribed. She was E.H. Shepard to Michael Bond's A.A. Milne .
Such was his success with the books that by 1965 Bond was able to leave his job as a cameraman at the BBC, and write full time.
An addition to Paddington's wardrobe came in 1972, when Gabrielle designs created a toy Paddington, giving him Wellington boots to help the thing remain upright. The original toy was intended for Jeremy and Joanna, the children of the business's owners Shirley and Eddie Clarkson - yes, it was that Jeremy . The toy went on to sell in huge numbers, spreading the bear's fame still further.
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