Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

The novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was published 24 November 1877. The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty and describes conditions among London horse-drawn taxicab drivers, including the financial hardship caused to them by high licence fees and low, legally fixed fares. Sewell uses anthropomorphism in Black Beauty. The text advocates fairer treatment of horses in Victorian England.

The novel concerns a horse named Black Beauty and begins with Black Beauty’s carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, through his difficult life pulling cabs in London, on 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

Because The story is narrated from Black Beauty’s perspective 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. 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. 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. 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. The novel Black Beauty has also been adapted for film and television numerous times.

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