Thursday, February 9, 2012
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty, published in 1877 and set in Victorian London, was Anna Sewell's only novel. Yet it has remained a classic for 140 years.
Anna Sewell (English Quaker 1820-1878) was one of the first equine advocates, if not the first to write a children's novel about a wonderful horse and the cruelty of man. Black Beauty is the autobiography of a horse.
Told from the horse's point-of-view, Black Beauty describes his birth, early training and his fondness for his first master, Squire Gordon, stablemates Ginger and Merrylegs and grooms John and James.
For fashion's sake, some owners insisted the grooms harness the carriage horses with their head's held high with the check rein. This made it difficult for the team to pull as well as caused other long term problems. Squire Gordon was against such devices.
When James plans on moving on, little Joe Green is trained for his position. The young boy makes a grave error in Beauty's care after the horse is ridden hard to fetch the doctor for the mistress, and the doc rides him hard back. Beauty survives the incident, but when the mistress needs to move due to her illness, all the horses must be sold.
After that, Beauty describes his life with various owners. Some are ignorant, some cruel but a handful give him the best care they can including a cab driver. Life is hard, and the author gives details of the cruelty of some grooms, drivers and owners.
At least Sewell gives the story a happy ending.
I first read this as a teen, before I took riding lessons. Looking back, I think Sewell's insight helped me decide my path on my journey to becoming a professional horsewoman.
I would recommend this book for all horse lovers except the very young.