by Kristin BerkeryMost horse-loving kids read Black Beauty at some point, and even though it’s a well-loved story, most adults view it as children’s fiction. But that wasn’t what author Anna Sewell intended.
Sewell was permanently disabled after a childhood accident and never married or had children. Of English Quaker origins, she subscribed to the belief that all humans and animals should be treated fairly. Sewell spent the last few years of her life writing Black Beauty: The Autobiography of a Horse, bedridden by poor health and cared for by her mother. She never got to appreciate its immense success — Sewell died just five months after the book was published in late 1877.
Black Beauty was ground-breaking. It was the first novel to tell a story from the perspective of an animal, giving readers a realistic glimpse into the hard lives of horses in Victorian England. Because horses were necessary for transportation and farm work, they were often mistreated and considered no better than inanimate objects. Sewell had empathy for all animals, but especially horses, and she wrote Black Beauty in the hope that it might inspire people to treat horses with more kindness.