Black Beauty (Paperback)
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 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. 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. 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." 7] 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. 9] In addition, animal rights activists would habitually distribute copies of the novel to horse drivers and to people in stables. 10] 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. 11] 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.