Black Beauty

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Black Beauty
BlackBeautyCoverFirstEd1877.jpeg
First edition, F. M. Lupton Publishing Company, New York
Author(s)Anna Sewell
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Novel
PublisherJarrold & Sons
Publication date24 November 1877
 
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Black Beauty
BlackBeautyCoverFirstEd1877.jpeg
First edition, F. M. Lupton Publishing Company, New York
Author(s)Anna Sewell
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Novel
PublisherJarrold & Sons
Publication date24 November 1877

Black Beauty is an 1877 novel by English author Anna Sewell. It was composed in the last years of her life, during which she remained in her house as an invalid.[1] The novel became an immediate bestseller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, long enough to see her first and only novel become a success. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time.[2] While forthrightly teaching animal welfare, it also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. Black Beauty became a forerunner to the pony book genre of children's literature.[3]

Contents

History

".... there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham...."
Black BeautyChapter 13, last paragraph.

Anna Sewell was born in Yarmouth, England and had a brother named Philip, who was an engineer in Europe. At the age of 14, Anna fell while walking home from school in the rain and injured both ankles. Through mistreatment of the injury, she became unable to walk or stand for any length of time for the rest of her life. Disabled and unable to walk since she was a young child, Anna Sewell began learning about horses early in life, spending many hours driving her father to and from the station from which he commuted to work. Her dependence on horse-drawn transportation fostered her respect of horses.[2] The local estate of Tracy Park, now a golf club, was said to be the inspiration for Black Beauty's “Birtwick Park.” Sewell's introduction to writing began in her youth when she helped edit the works of her mother, Mary Wright Sewell (1797–1884), a deeply religious, popular author of juvenile best-sellers. By telling the story of a horse's life in the form of an autobiography and describing the world through the eyes of the horse, Anna Sewell broke new literary ground.[4]

She never married or had children. In visits to European spas, she met many writers, artists, and philanthropists. Her only book was Black Beauty, written between 1871 and 1877 in their house at Old Catton. During this time, her health was declining, and she could barely get out of bed. Her dearly-loved mother often had to help her in her illness. She sold it to the local publishers, Jarrold & Sons. The book broke records for sales and is the “sixth best seller in the English language."[5]

Sewell died of hepatitis or tuberculosis on 25 April 1878, only 5 months after the novel was published, but she lived long enough to see its initial success. She was buried on 30 April 1878 in the Quaker burial-ground at Lammas near Buxton, Norfolk. In Norwich, England, not far from her resting place, is a wall plaque marking her resting place. Her birthplace in Church Plain, Great Yarmouth is now a museum.

Sewell did not write the novel for children. She said that her purpose in writing the novel was "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses"[1]—an influence she attributed to an essay on animals she read earlier by Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) entitled "Essay on Animals".[6] Her sympathetic portrayal of the plight of working animals led to a vast outpouring of concern for animal welfare and is said to have been instrumental in abolishing the cruel practice of using the checkrein (or "bearing rein", a strap used to keep horses' heads high, fashionable in Victorian England but painful and damaging to a horse's neck).[4] Black Beauty also contains two pages about the use of blinkers on horses, concluding that this use is likely to cause accidents at night due to interference with "the full use of" a horse's ability to "see much better in the dark than men can."

Plot introduction

The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty—beginning with his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, to his difficult life pulling cabs in London, to his happy retirement in the country. Along the way, he meets with many hardships and recounts many tales of cruelty and kindness. Each short chapter recounts an incident in Black Beauty's life containing a lesson or moral typically related to the kindness, sympathy, and understanding treatment of horses, with Sewell's detailed observations and extensive descriptions of horse behaviour lending the novel a good deal of verisimilitude.[1]

The book describes conditions among London horse-drawn taxicab drivers, including the financial hardship caused to them by high licence fees and low, legally fixed fares. A page footnote in some editions says that soon after the book was published, the difference between 6-day taxicab licences (not allowed to trade on Sundays) and 7-day taxicab licences (allowed to trade on Sundays) was abolished and the taxicab licence fee was much reduced.

Characters

Horses

Beauty's owners

This copy of the first edition of the book was dedicated by the author to her mother. It was auctioned off at Christie's in London in June 2006 for £33,000.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Film adaptations

The book has been adapted into film and television several times, including:

Theatrical Adaptations

For the first time in the novel's history Black Beauty was adapted for the stage in 2011 by playwright James Stone. The play was perform at the Broughton Hall Estate, North Yorkshire and Epsom Racecourse, Surrey. The production was a critical success and will be performed around the UK in 2012.[7]

Influence upon other works

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Merriam-Webster (1995). "Black Beauty". Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature.
  2. ^ a b The Times on Black Beauty: "Fifty million copies of Black Beauty have been sold in the years since Anna Sewell's publisher paid her £20 for the story." (29 February 2008)
  3. ^ 'Pony Books: A Brief Introduction by Clarissa Cridland' web page on collectingbooksandmagazines.com website, viewed 2011-12-11
  4. ^ a b Anna Sewell, by Prof. Waller Hastings, Northern State University, 2004. Archive.org copy.
  5. ^ E.B. Wells and A. Grimshaw, The annotated ‘Black Beauty’, 1989)
  6. ^ Gentle Heart: The Story of Anna Sewell, by Jen Longshaw.
  7. ^ "Black Beauty at Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire". Peel Heritage. http://www.peelheritage.com/case-studies/black-beauty-at-broughton-hal/. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 

External links