Black Beauty

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Black Beauty
BlackBeautyCoverFirstEd1877.jpeg
First edition, F. M. Lupton Publishing Company, New York
AuthorAnna Sewell
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreChildren's Literature
PublisherJarrold & Sons
Publication date
24 November 1877
Pages281
ISBN978-0-679-42811-4
TextBlack Beauty at Wikisource
 
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For other uses, see Black Beauty (disambiguation).
Black Beauty
BlackBeautyCoverFirstEd1877.jpeg
First edition, F. M. Lupton Publishing Company, New York
AuthorAnna Sewell
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
GenreChildren's Literature
PublisherJarrold & Sons
Publication date
24 November 1877
Pages281
ISBN978-0-679-42811-4
TextBlack Beauty at Wikisource

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 best-seller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, but long enough to see her 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] In 2003, the novel was listed at number 58 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.[4]

History[edit]

".... 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 Great 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, she began learning about horses, 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 for horses.[2] 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.[5]

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 her 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 the book to the local publishers, Jarrold & Sons. The book broke records for sales and is the “sixth best seller in the English language."[6]

Sewell died of hepatitis or tuberculosis on 25 April 1878, only five 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, where a wall plaque marks 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".[7] 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 the abolition of 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).[5] Black Beauty also mentions 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[edit]

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.

Qualities of the book[edit]

Sewell uses anthropomorphism in "Black Beauty". The text advocates fairer treatment of horses in Victorian England. The story is narrated from Black Beauty's perspective and resultantly readers arguably gained insight into how horses suffered through their use by human beings with restrictive technical objects like the "bearing rein" and "blinkers" as well as procedures like cutting off the tails of the horses. For instance, Ginger describes the physical effects of the "bearing rein" to Black Beauty, by stating, “… it is dreadful… your neck aching until you don’t know how to bear it… its hurt my tongue and my jaw and the blood from my tongue covered the froth that kept flying from my lips”.[8] Tess Cosslett highlights that Black Beauty's story is structured in a way that makes him similar to those he serves. The horses in the text have reactions as well as emotions and characteristics, like love and loyalty, which are similar to those of human beings. Coslett emphasises that, while "Black Beauty" is not the first book written in the style of an animal autobiography, it is a novel that “allows the reader to slide in and out of horse-consciousness, blurring the human/animal divide".[9]

Reaction to the book[edit]

Upon publication of the book, many readers related to the pain of the victimised horses, sympathised and ultimately wanted to see the introduction of reforms that would improve the well-being of horses. Two years after the release of the novel, one million copies of "Black Beauty" were in circulation in the United States.[10] In addition, animal rights activists would habitually distribute copies of the novel to horse drivers and to people in stables.[11] The depiction of the "bearing rein" in "Black Beauty", spurred so much outrage and empathy from readers that its use was not only abolished in Victorian England, but public interest in anti-cruelty legislation in the United States also grew significantly. The arguably detrimental social practices concerning the use of horses in "Black Beauty" inspired the development of legislation in various states that would condemn such abusive behaviours towards animals.[12] The strong impact of the novel is still very much recognised today. Claudia Johnson and Vernon E Johnson, authors of "In the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare", have referred to "Black Beauty" as being “the most influential anti-cruelty novel of all time”.[12] They have also written that, while many works of literature have been drafted with the purpose of promoting a change of heart in the harsh treatment of animals, the most significant one, with the widest impact, is indisputably Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty".[12] Comparisons have also been made between "Black Beauty" and the most important social protest novel in the United States, “Uncle Tom's Cabin”, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, on account of the strong degree of outrage and protest action that both novels triggered in society.[12]

Characters[edit]

Horses[edit]

Beauty's owners[edit]

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[edit]

Part 2[edit]

Part 3[edit]

Part 4[edit]

Film adaptations[edit]

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

Theatrical adaptations[edit]

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 was performed around the UK in 2012.[13]

Influence upon other works[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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 11 December 2011
  4. ^ "BBC – The Big Read". BBC. April 2003, Retrieved 18 October 2012
  5. ^ a b Anna Sewell, by Prof. Waller Hastings, Northern State University, 2004. Archive.org copy.
  6. ^ E.B. Wells and A. Grimshaw, The annotated ‘Black Beauty’, 1989)
  7. ^ Gentle Heart: The Story of Anna Sewell, by Jen Longshaw.
  8. ^ Sewell, p. 42.
  9. ^ Coslett, pg. 69.
  10. ^ Guest, pg.04.
  11. ^ Guest, pg. 04.
  12. ^ a b c d Libo, Living Green Mag.
  13. ^ "Black Beauty at Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire". Peel Heritage. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 

External links[edit]