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Black Beauty

Black Beauty  
First Edition, F.M. Lupton Publishing Company, New York City, New York
Author Anna Sewell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher F.M. Lupton Publishing Company
Publication date 24 November 1877

Black Beauty is an 1877 novel by English author Anna Sewell. It was composed in the last years of her life, during which she was confined to her house as an invalid.[1] The novel became an immediate bestseller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, long enough to see her first and only novel become a success. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time.[2] While forthrightly teaching animal welfare, it also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy and respect.


About the Author

Anna Sewell was born in Norfolk, England and had a brother named Philip, who was a construction 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. Crippled and unable to walk since a young child, Anna Sewell began learning about horses early in life, spending many hours driving her father to and from the station from which he commuted to work. The local estate of Tracy Park, now a golf club, was said to be the inspiration for Black Beauty's “Birtwick Park.” 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. 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.[3]

She 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 their 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 and assist her in writing the novel. She sold it to the local publishers, Jarrold & Sons. The book broke records for sales and is the “sixth best seller in the English language." [Citation needed] Sewell died of hepatitis or phthisis on 25 April 1878, only 5 months after her publication. She was buried on 30 April 1878 in the Quaker burial-ground at Lammas near Buxton, Norfolk. In Norwich, England, not far from her resting place, is a wall plaque marking her resting place. Her birthplace in Church Plain, Great Yarmouth is now a museum.

Plot introduction

The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by a horse named Black Beauty—beginning with his carefree days as a colt on an English farm, 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 behavior lending the novel a good deal of verisimilitude.[1]


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"[1]—an influence she attributed to an essay on animals she read earlier by Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) entitled "Essay on Animals".[4] 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 abolishing 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).[3] Black Beauty also contains two pages about the use of blinders (calling them 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."

"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 other animals as well as humans, it is all a shame."
Black BeautyChapter 13, last paragraph.

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. Despite recollections to the contrary, there is no evidence that this book was ever banned in South Africa.[5]



  • Darkie/Black Beauty/Black Auster/Jack—The narrator of the story, a handsome black horse. He begins his career as a carriage horse for wealthy people but when he "breaks his knees" (i.e. develops scars on his "knees"--anatomically, wrists—after a bad fall) he is no longer considered presentable enough and is put to much harder work. He passes through the hands of a series of owners, some cruel, some kind. He always tries his best to serve humans despite the circumstance.
  • Duchess (Nicknamed "Pet")—Beauty's mother, who encourages Beauty to be good from a young age.
  • Rob Roy—A fellow black horse from Beauty's original farm, who is killed in a hunting incident. It is later learned that he was Beauty's half-brother, an older son of Duchess.
  • Lizzie— A high-strung, nervous mare who Lady Anne rides one day and is spooked until Black Beauty comes to her aid with his rider.
  • Ginger—Named for her chestnut colour and her habit of biting, which is often how the spice, ginger, is described. Ginger is a more aggressive horse due to her traumatic upbringing.
  • Merrylegs—A short, white, handsome pony who is polite to humans and horses alike. He is ridden by the young daughters at Birtwick Park.Then later on sent to live with a vicar who promises never to sell him.
  • Sir Oliver—An older horse who had his tail docked to his great annoyance and discomfort.
  • Rory—A job horse usually paired with Black Beauty. Became a coal carting horse after getting hit in the chest by a runaway cart.
  • Peggy—A hired horse who cannot run very fast due to her short legs.
  • Captain—A former army horse who witnessed horrific incidents in the Crimean War, although he was well treated and received no wounds. He lost his beloved master in the Charge of the Light Brigade. He became a cab horse for Jerry, where he works with Black Beauty.
  • Hotspur—A five year old horse bought to replace Captain.
  • Justice—A calm, peaceable horse Beauty meets at Birtwick Park.

Beauty's owners

This copy of the first edition of the book was dedicated by the author to her mother. It was auctioned off at Christie's in London in June 2006 for £33,000.
  • Farmer Grey—Beauty's first owner, a good kind man who trains him well.
  • Mr Douglas Gordon(Squire Gordon)-A very kind and loving master who was also the squire.
  • Mr Barry—A man who tries to treat horses well, but lacks knowledge on horse care.
  • Mr Jeremiah Barker—A kind owner who uses Beauty as a cab horse. Owns Captain and Hotspur.
  • Mr Jakes—An owner who uses Beauty as a work horse, forcing him to carry heavy loads.
  • Mr Nicholas Skinner—A ruthless cab horse owner who wears out horses through hard work and mistreatment.
  • Farmer Thoroughgood—A kind owner who cares for Black Beauty when he is at his weakest.
  • The three ladies—His final home where he spends the rest of his days very well treated.


In the unabridged version of Black Beauty, there are 49 chapters, 4 parts, and approximately 265 pages depending on the edition.

Part 1

  • Chapter 1 "My Early Home" (Pages 3–5)
  • Chapter 2 "The Hunt" (Pages 6–9)
  • Chapter 3 "My Breaking In" (Pages 10–15)
  • Chapter 4 "Birtwick Park" (Pages 16–20)
  • Chapter 5 "A Fair Start" (Pages 21–25)
  • Chapter 6 "Liberty" (Pages 26–28)
  • Chapter 7 "Ginger" (Pages 29–35)
  • Chapter 8 "Ginger's Story Continued" (Pages 36–40)
  • Chapter 9 "Merrylegs" (Pages 41–45)
  • Chapter 10 "A Talk In The Orchard" (Pages 46–53)
  • Chapter 11 "Plain Speaking" (Pages 54–58)
  • Chapter 12 "A Stormy Day" (Pages 59–63)
  • Chapter 13 "The Devil's Trade Mark" (Pages 64–68)
  • Chapter 14 "James Howard" (Pages 69–72)
  • Chapter 15 "The Old Ostler" (Pages 73–76)
  • Chapter 16 "The Fire" (Pages 77–82)
  • Chapter 17 "John Manly's Talk" (Pages 83–87)
  • Chapter 18 "Going for the Doctor" (Pages 88–93)
  • Chapter 19 "Only Ignorance" (Pages 94–96)
  • Chapter 20 "Joe Green" (Pages 97–100)
  • Chapter 21 "The Parting" (Pages 101-104)

Part 2

  • Chapter 22 "Earlshall" (Pages 107-111)
  • Chapter 23 "A Strike for Liberty" (Pages 112-116)
  • Chapter 24 "The Lady Anne" (Pages 117-124)
  • Chapter 25 "Reuben Smith" (Pages 125-130)
  • Chapter 26 "How it Ended" (Pages 131-134)
  • Chapter 27 "Ruined and Going Down-Hill" (Pages 135-138)
  • Chapter 28 "A Job-Horse and his Drivers" (Pages 139-143)
  • Chapter 29 "Cockneys" (Pages 144-152)
  • Chapter 30 "A Thief" (Pages 153-156)
  • Chapter 31 "A Humbug" (Pages 157-160)

Part 3

  • Chapter 32 "A Horse Fair" (Pages 163-168)
  • Chapter 33 "A London Cab Horse" (Pages 169-173)
  • Chapter 34 "An Old War Horse" (Pages 174-180)
  • Chapter 35 "Jerry Barker" (Pages 181-188)
  • Chapter 36 "The Sunday Cab" (Pages 189-195)
  • Chapter 37 "The Golden Rule" (Pages 196-200)
  • Chapter 38 "Dolly and a Real Gentleman" (Pages 201-205)
  • Chapter 39 "Seedy Sam" (Pages 206-210)
  • Chapter 40 "Poor Ginger" (Pages 211-213)
  • Chapter 41 "The Butcher" (Pages 214-218)
  • Chapter 42 "The Election" (Pages 219-221)
  • Chapter 43 "A Friend in Need" (Pages 222-227)
  • Chapter 44 "Old Captain and his Successor" (Pages 228-233)
  • Chapter 45 "Jerry's New Year" (Pages 234-242)

Part 4

  • Chapter 46 "Jakes and the Lady" (Pages 245-249)
  • Chapter 47 "Hard Times" (Pages 250-255)
  • Chapter 48 "Farmer Thoroughgood and his Grandson Willie" (Pages 256-260)
  • Chapter 49 "My Last Home" (Pages 261-265)

Film adaptations

The book has been adapted into film and television several times, including:

  • The Adventures of Black Beauty (TV series) (1972)
  • Additionally, in 1966 Walt Disney Productions produced an LP adaptation on its Disneyland Records label with music by Disney's musical director at the time, Tutti Camarata, complete with narration similar to an old time radio program; Disney has never made an animated or live-action version and it is not known whether one was ever planned by Disney.

Influence upon other works

  • Beautiful Joe was a best-selling 1893 novel about a dog that was directly influenced by Black Beauty and followed a similar path to fame through awareness of cruelty to animals.
  • Strike at Shane's: A Prize Story of Indiana is an anonymous American novel that won a monetary award and national publication in 1893 in a contest sponsored by the American Humane Society, and was reprinted several times commercially thereafter. Described in the introduction as a "Sequel to Black Beauty, it tells the story of good and bad treatment of farm animals and local wildlife, especially songbirds, in the America Midwest. The novel is generally attributed as the first published work of the novelist Gene Stratton Porter, and bears a remarkable textual similarity to her other books.
  • Phyllis Briggs wrote a sequel called Son of Black Beauty, published in 1950.
  • The Pullein-Thompson sisters wrote several stories concerning relatives of Black Beauty. They are Black Ebony (1975; by Josephine), Black Velvet (1975; by Christine), Black Princess (1975; by Diana), Black Nightshade (1978; by Josephine), Black Romany (1978; by Diana), Blossom (1978; by Christine), Black Piper (1982; by Diana), Black Raven (1982; by Josephine) and Black Pioneer (1982; by Christine). The book Black Swift (1991) by Josephine is not about a Black Beauty relative. These were published in several compilations as well as some of them being available separately. Each compilation was subsequently republished, sometimes with a change of name.
  • Spike Milligan wrote a parody of the novel called Black Beauty According to Spike Milligan (1996).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Merriam-Webster (1995). "Black Beauty". Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature.
  2. The Times on Black Beauty: "Fifty million copies of Black Beauty have been sold in the years since Anna Sewell's publisher paid her £20 for the story." (29 February 2008)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Anna Sewell, by Prof. Waller Hastings, Northern State University, 2004. Archive.org copy.
  4. Gentle Heart: The Story of Anna Sewell, by Jen Longshaw.
  5. The Literature Police Accessed 2009-06-28

External links

  • Black Beauty at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions color illustrated). Notable editions:
  • (plain text and HTML)


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