Anyway, not too long ago, Mom got the urge to read Black Beauty again, so she bought a copy of the book on CD. The Year of the Horse seemed like a good time to reread this old favorite book, and now that I have done a little in-depth research on it, I will tell you about the book and its author.
|First edition cover, 1877|
Black Beauty was published in 1877 by Anna Sewell. It was the only book she ever wrote. She spent the last few years of her life writing it while her health got worse and worse. She died on April 25, 1878, only five months after the publication of her book, but at least she got to see its early success. Ms. Sewell died of either hepatitis or tuberculosis. Her book went on to sell fifty million copies, which made it the sixth best-selling book in the English language.
Anna Sewell was born in Great Yarmouth, England. She had one brother, who was an engineer in Europe. At the age of 14, Anna fell while she was walking home from school in the rain. She injured both of her ankles, and they never healed up properly. So for the rest of her life, she had to walk with a crutch, and she could not walk far or stand for very long. She began learning about horses, and they provided a good way for her to get around town. Also, she drove her father to and from the train station every day so he could go to work.
|This copy of the first edition of the book|
was dedicated by the author to her
mother. In June 2006, it was autioned off
at Christie's in London for £33,000.
Ms. Sewell's mother, Mary Wright Sewell, wrote best-selling children's books. Anna helped edit these, and this was her introduction to writing. Anna Sewell never married, even though she met lots of artists, writers, and philanthropists while she was visiting European spas. She wrote Black Beauty between 1871 and 1877. As her health got worse, she sometimes could barely get out of bed. She wrote on little scraps of paper, and her mother copied these into a nice manuscript. Local publishers, Jarrold & Sons, published the book when it was finished in 1877.
|Beauty spent several years as a cab horse.|
Life was hard for both the horses and the cabbies.
One of the worst things for horses in harness was the "checkrein" (or "bearing rein"), which was a strap used to make the horse hold his head up really high. This was supposed to make him look flashy, but it was very uncomfortable for the horse and could ruin his health.
|Anna Sewell's house in Old Catton,|
where she lived the last part of her life.
After reading the book, lots of people got angry about the conditions that horses were made to work in, and laws were passed to do things like ban the use of checkrein. This happened in the U.S., too, where two million copies of Black Beauty had been sold by 1879.
I think it's a very good thing that Ms. Sewell wrote a story about a horse named Black Beauty. Her book helped a lot of horses to have better lives, and I hope they are grateful!