by Anna Sewell | Grades: 4-7 | Ages: 8-14 | Lexile Level: 1020
About Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Perhaps the most celebrated animal story of the 19th century, Black Beauty is the suspenseful and deeply moving account of a horse's experiences at the hands of many owners -- some, sensitive riders who treated him gently; others, cruel drivers who thoughtlessly inflicted lasting damage.
Written as the animal's autobiography, and as an appeal for the humane treatment of horses, Anna Sewell's beloved classic reveals as much about human conduct and the social ills of the time as it does about the treatment of animals.
Scenes from the lives of both the landed gentry and the impoverished working class offer a subtle but well-rounded perspective of social conditions in England during the late 19th century. Animal lovers of all ages will cherish this memorable story.
A Biographical Note About Anna Sewell
Anna Sewell (1820 - 1878) While living in Old Catton, Sewell wrote the manuscript of Black Beauty – in the period between 1871 and 1877. During this time her health was declining; she was often so weak that she was confined to her bed. Writing was a challenge. She dictated the text to her mother and from 1876 began to write on slips of paper which her mother then transcribed.
Although the book is now considered a children's classic, Sewell originally wrote it for those who worked with horses. She said "a special aim was to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses". In many respects the book can be read as a guide to horse husbandry, stable management and humane training practices for colts. It is considered to have had an effect on reducing cruelty to horses; for example, the use of bearing reins, which are particularly painful for a horse, was one of the practices highlighted in the novel, and in the years after the book's release the reins became less popular and fell out of favour.
Sewell sold the novel to Norwich publisher Jarrolds on 24 November 1877, when she was 57 years old. She received a single payment of $4,630 (in 2017 US$) and the book was published the same year.
After the publication of her only novel, Sewell fell seriously ill. Sewell was in extreme pain and completely bedridden for the following months, and she died on 25 April 1878 of hepatitis or tuberculosis.