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. The novel became an immediate best-seller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, but having lived 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.
While forthrightly teaching animal welfare, it also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 58 on the BBC's survey The Big Read. It is seen as a forerunner of the pony book.
First edition, F. M. Lupton Publishing Company, New York
|Publisher||Jarrold & Sons|
|24 November 1877|
|Text||Black Beauty at Wikisource|
".... 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 Beauty, Chapter 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. 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.
Anna Sewell 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." 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.
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"—an influence she attributed to an essay on animals she read earlier by Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) entitled "Essay on Animals". 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). 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."
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.
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.
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". Tess Coslett 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".
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. In addition, animal rights activists would habitually distribute copies of the novel to horse drivers and to people in stables. 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. The impact of the novel is still very much recognised today. Writing in the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, Bernard Unti calls Black Beauty "the most influential anticruelty novel of all time". 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.
The book has been adapted into film and television several times, including:
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.
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Anna Sewell (; 30 March 1820 – 25 April 1878) was an English novelist. She is well known as the author of the 1877 children's novel Black Beauty, one of the top ten best selling novels for children ever written.Black Beauty (1921 film)
Black Beauty is a 1921 American silent film version of Anna Sewell's novel of the same name. Black Beauty is an autobiography of a horse, who tells the story of his life and of the people surrounding him. This film exists in an incomplete state with four of seven reels preserved at the Library of Congress.A competing/rival independent film of the same story was also released in early 1921 starring Claire Adams and Pat O'Malley. It was produced by Eskay Harris Feature Film Company.Black Beauty (1946 film)
Black Beauty is a 1946 American drama film directed by Max Nosseck and based on Anna Sewell's novel of the same name.Black Beauty (1971 film)
Black Beauty is a 1971 British drama film, based on the Anna Sewell novel of the same name. This movie is the fourth feature film adaptation of Anna Sewell's story. The movie was directed by James Hill. Lionel Bart provided the rousing score.
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Black Beauty is a 1994 American film adaptation of Anna Sewell's novel by the same name directed by Caroline Thompson in her directorial debut. The film stars Andrew Knott, Sean Bean and David Thewlis. The film is also treated as an autobiography of the horse Black Beauty as in the original novel, and is narrated by Alan Cumming as the voice of the 'Black Beauty'. This is the fifth feature film adaptation of the 1877 classic novel by Anna Sewell.Black Beauty (Lana Del Rey song)
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Black Beauty is a 1978 animated television special produced by the Australian division of Hanna-Barbera and based from the novel of the same name by Anna Sewell. It originally aired October 28, 1978 as part of Famous Classic Tales on CBS.
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Released nearly six years after the death of Lee, Black Beauty did not represent the pinnacle of Lee's musical creativity, but is seen as an appropriate closing chapter on his and Love's recording career. Some of the tracks for the canceled album had appeared beforehand on compilation albums such as Reel to Real and Love Lost; however, Black Beauty is the first release to assemble all the compositions from the 1973 recording sessions. While the album does not represent the classic Love line-up, music critics have recognized it as the best representation of Lee's hard rock period.Cleveland Amory
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The New Adventures of Black Beauty was a television drama series produced in the early 1990s. The show was produced first in New Zealand, then in Australia. The two different productions had different characters and plotlines, un-related except through the horse, Black Beauty.
The first season of the show was produced 1990-1991 by Isambard (Black Beauty) Productions Ltd in association with The Fremantle Corporation, and Beta Taurus produced the series primarily in New Zealand as a continuation of the 1972-1974 television drama series, The Adventures of Black Beauty. Set 20 years after the events of the earlier series, it featured two of the original characters, Dr James Gordon (played by William Lucas) and Jenny Gordon Denning (played by Stacy Dorning). The series was originally aired on ITV in the United Kingdom, and Isambard Productions Ltd produced 26 episodes in total. This production was subsequently aired in the US, where it was split into two seasons, aired in a different order, and with two episodes ("Horsepower" and "Horse Sense") possibly omitted in some markets.
In 1992, The Fremantle Corporation moved production to Australia with what was for all practical purposes an entirely new series with new characters and a plotline unrelated to the previous episodes. The only connection to earlier works is the use of material from the final episode of the 1990-1991 production, reworked and with a voice-over explaining that Beauty had been released into the Australian wild. This was shown at the beginning of the first episode of the new production.
Though video of the first production has been marketed on its own, the two productions are now being marketed on DVD and in syndication as a single television series, with the 1990-91 production billed as "Season 1" and the 1992 production billed as "Season 2".
In July 2009, Retro Television Network picked up all 104 episodes of The Adventures of Black Beauty (produced in England) and The New Adventures of Black Beauty (both the New Zealand and Australian seasons), and affiliates began airing them in sequence, listing all 104 episodes as simply Black Beauty.
In the United Kingdom and some other countries, both seasons of the New Adventures were shown on Horse & Country TV (Sky Channel 253) between 2014 and 2016.