Black Beauty is an 1877 novel by English author Anna Sewell. 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. 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.
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
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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.