Black Beauty

by Anna Sewell

Paperback, 1998

Collection

Description

A horse in nineteenth-century England recounts his experiences with both good and bad masters.

Library's rating

Rating

(1716 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lit_chick
2005, Tantor Media, Read by Simon Vance

“The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. ” (Ch 1)

I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this beautiful childhood classic, an autobiographical memoir narrated in first person by Black Beauty himself. Beauty tells his story, beginning with his carefree young life on an English farm with his mother, through his difficult years pulling cabs in London, and finally to his retirement in the English countryside. Along the way, he has met with much kindness but also with substantial cruelty. Sewell devotes each chapter to some moral lesson about the kind and understanding treatment of horses. Through Beauty's first person narration we gain insight into into the disposition and dignity of an animal well-treated. Conversely, we also come to understand some of the ways in which humans have caused horses to suffer needlessly, in the name of fashion, for instance, as with blinkers and bearing reins. It was Sewell’s intention, I suspect, given her admirable and passionate advocacy for the better treatment of horses, that young people might read Black Beauty’s story and come to effect change in the world that all animals might know kindness and compassion.

“My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.” (38)
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LibraryThing member pmarshall
Black Beauty is a horse of good breeding and training and in this autobiographical novel he tells of the different stages he went through in his life. In his early years he enjoyed playing in the meadow and spending time with his mother. He was trained to be a carriage horse and he took great pride in doing his job well. However as he was sold to different owners, a duke, a livery stable owner, a cab driver, a baker, another cab driver in London his life changed as he moved down in the world.

Mr. Thoroughgood and his grandson, Willie, see Black Beauty at his lowest but still see the good bones and the style he has. They purchase him and retire him to a meadow where he regains his health and spirit. Black Beauty’s last owners are three ladies and he becomes a carriage horse once more.

The publication of “Black Beauty” in England in 1877 had a major focus on animal welfare as well as treating other people with kindness and respect. “… the “Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare", have referred to "Black Beauty" as being “the most influential anti-cruelty novel of all time”. (Wikipedia - Black Beauty.) Anna Sewell wrote it for those who worked with horses, she said “a special aim [was] to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.” (Wikipedia - Anna Sewell.)
Posted Review Five Stars
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LibraryThing member nsenger
Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it.
- Black Beauty, page 74

I knew next to nothing about Black Beauty before I started reading it, and it was very different than I expected. My previous experience with equine stories has been through movies like Secretariat, The Black Stallion, and Hidalgo, so I was expecting a story about a colt who beats all odds to become a great racehorse. If my Kindle edition would have included the original title, I would have had a much better idea of what to expect. The full title from the first edition is Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions - The Autobiography of a Horse. And that's exactly what it is. Written in 1877, Black Beauty is a first-person account of life as a horse in Victorian England.

Black Beauty tells his own story about growing up on a farm in rural England and eventually working as a cab horse in London. The chapters are short, and in each one the horse tells about a significant event from his life that illustrates some moral principle about kindness or treating horses fairly. As Black Beauty is sold from one owner to the next, the reader experiences a cross section of life in England in the late 19th century, and author Anna Sewell uses this to criticize social evils such as heavy drinking, animal cruelty, and unfair labor practices.

Black Beauty himself is a humble, hard-working, honest creature, that I came to like more and more as I read his story. The novel is also filled with a memorable cast of supporting characters, both human and equine: the ill-treated mare Ginger, Squire Gordon, Joe Greene, Farmer Thoroughgood, and many more.

Black Beauty is a perfect novel to read to children. Its chapters are short enough to be read in ten minutes or so, and it's filled with wonderful details about life in Victorian England. And not only does it naturally spark discussions about moral principles like kindness and honesty, but it could also lead to conversations about deeper social justice issues like fair pay and business ethics.

It's a charming novel, and it's no wonder it's been so popular since it was first published. I was surprised to learn that Black Beauty is one of the top thirty best-selling books of all time in the English language, selling over 50 million copies--more than The Odyssey, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, and Gone with the Wind. If you missed reading this as a child, as I did, pick up a copy and let Black Beauty tell you his story.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
This classic children's book narrated by the horse Black Beauty holds up well over time. This book should delight both children and adults. It tells the story of his life through good and bad times. The author of the book was a Quaker woman, and she was definitely trying to teach good moral values to children, but coming from the horse of a mouth, it doesn't seem quite as didactic as some moralistic tales. There are a lot of good pointers about good horsemanship in the book as well. These tend to be a bit preachier than the moral lessons. I enjoyed the story of Black Beauty as a child, but I think I appreciated the story much more as an adult.… (more)
LibraryThing member Lisa.Johnson.James
I used to have one of the original hard bound versions of the books that was my grandmothers when SHE was a little girl, given to her by her mother. By the time I read it first as a little girl, the binding was so brittle that the individual pages were loose, & brittle themselves, like an ancient manuscript. I was only allowed to read it at the dining room table, so the book & the pages could be spread out on the tablecloth under a softer light. I can still remember the antique book smell of it, & as I read each page, I'd turn them over oh so carefully to get to the next part of the story.

Beauty, Ginger, Merrylegs, all became like old friends, & it was so sad to see all the sad things that happened over their lives. I cried when the Mistress had to sell them all because of her ill health & move, I cried when the drunk didn't take care of Beauty & his knees ended up a mess, I was sad for Ginger when a spoiled rich young man raced her till she broke down, but I was happy to see them together again in their paddock for a year.

When they both were sold as cab horses, Beauty to a kind man, & poor, long suffering Ginger to an abusive lout, I knew in my heart what was going to end up happening to her, but the mental image the original book painted of her in such horrible shape that the life had gone out of her eyes & she was suffering so much that even Beauty hoped she would die , & then when he saw the horse cart go by, & he recognized her body under the blankets, I cried again, & that was more than 30 years ago & I can still see it in my mind.

I was so thankful at the end, when as an older horse, Beauty ends up in the final care of the young groom he first knew in happier days, & would live the rest of his life there, loved & well cared for.

it's a book I would recommend for anyone, child or adult
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LibraryThing member auntieknickers
Ah, what a tear-jerker! In these days of PETA and humane societies, it's hard to remember that at one time books like this and Beautiful Joe were an important part of a social movement to treat animals more kindly. We might even think this too graphic for children now.
LibraryThing member pamkaye
I read this book as a child and thoroughly enjoyed it. Reading it again as an adult, I found I was just as engrossed and thrilled with the story.
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Book on CD narrated by Simon Vance.

First published in 1877, this is the only novel written by Anna Sewel, but it has become a much-loved classic and one of the most widely read animal stories. Black Beauty tells his own story, from his early days as a colt frolicking with his friends and his mother, to learning to accept a bridle, saddle and rider, to being sold as a carriage horse, then to pulling a cab in London, and eventually to a happy country life once again.

I had a copy of this book when I was a child; it was part of a set of classics that included works by Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain (among others). But for some reason I never read it, even during my “horse crazy” phase. I’m so glad I finally got to it. It’s a timeless tale with a simple message: Be kind to everyone (and everything). Sewell manages to convey this through Beauty’s experiences, both good and bad.

The hardcover text edition I got from the library was also beautifully illustrated by Lucy Kemp-Welch. There are several full-page full-color plates, as well as small ink drawings beginning each chapter.

Simon Vance does a marvelous job voicing the audio version. He gives life to the story, without being overly dramatic. It’s a great book to “read aloud” and I highly recommend listening to it with your children or grandchildren.
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LibraryThing member LaviniaRossetti
This little shining black colt was born with the most lovely mother, a grassy field to live and play in, and most of all, a kind master. He did not shame upon the little horse, nor did he kick, or whip to hard, and he had a light grip upon the reign when it came to his breaking in. He gave him bran mash and oats all the time, and the colt was delighted - yet he had no idea that soon enough, he would be sold away from his master, and away from his mother, and away from his field, and possibly, away from kindness.
The time did come, of course, and the horse was sold to the squire in the neighbouring village. He bought him and treated him well, luckily for him; and then he named him Black Beauty. The men who looked after him so nicely, John and James and Miss Bessie and Flora. He also had those warming friends close by him, Ginger and Sir Oliver and Merrylegs. Nothing could have been better - apart from how much he missed his family, and how much more liberty Beauty so wanted in his life.
Whenever the author comes across a time in the book when the colt (or, it could be, no longer a colt anymore) is out in the Victorian streets, I believe, he always finds some time when the reader can get to know horses. For instance, it shows boys behaving badly and terribly to ponies, or men whipping their colt when it turns the wrong direction, poor thing.
Two of the most charmingly horrible chapters were 'The Hunt' and a different one, named 'The Fire'. They were both incredibly well-written, and made you feel about the horses brilliantly. In the first chapter, The Hunt, a man and a horse died painfully. The horse broke his leg and was shot, and later on in the book it is discovered that that horse was Rob Roy, brother of Black Beauty.
Back inside the great fire that happened in the stables over business, two horses were left in the stables. 'There was a dreadful sound before we all got into the stables - the shrieks of those poor horses that were left burning to death in the stable.' is one quote. 'The two poor horses that could not be got out were buried under the burnt rafters and tiles.' was another. It was terribly sad.
Black Beauty was moved from owner to owner, groom to groom; but still he could find no person on earth who seemed to feel good and encouraging about his horses. Soon, however, he found his own life good and pure with Master Jerry, a lovely, good chap with a daughter, son and wife, and a horrendous good mind for horses. He pulled up and complained whenever he saw horses ill-used, and he would be lovely to Black Beauty - or Jack, as he then called him. But from time to time, bad things happen, and young Jackie was given away to lots of other people.
He was given away to many angry and barking old blokes, who lashed him with the bearing rein and pulled tight up with the bit digging horrifically to the sides of his delicate mouth. Poor old Beauty - but then, a good horse accompanies good souls, and he was given to good old Farmer Thoroughgood and his grandson Willie.
They picked Black Beauty from the Horse Fair, and they were marvellously kind to him. He was given to Willie, a kind, generous young boy, as his own responsibility, but soon he gave it to Lady Ellen, and Miss Lavinia (the first time I've seen my own name in a book!) and their family, in kindly treated hands; and so he lived until he died with a glorious life.
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LibraryThing member LynnB
This is a beautifully bound edition of Anna Sewell's classic story. I re-read it because I intend to give it to my grand-daughter.

Black Beauty is told from the horse's perspective and contains a lot of information about how horses were used and treated 200 years ago. I think it has stood the test of the time because it is so evocative of an era.… (more)
LibraryThing member qwiksilver
This book, in one form or another, has stayed on my shelf since I was a child. It has wonderful life lessons throughout the story and should be required reading of any child, horse crazy or not. It is a must for any child with a pony. It taught me to be kinder to my ponies. (As a result, they were much kinder to me.)
LibraryThing member Music09
This books introduces younger literary members to tragedy without making it traumatizing. By subtly introducing heartbreak and ending on an uplifting moment, the idea that not every story that takes a turn for the worse will stay that way. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
I am revising my rating, having just recently finished the audiobook. Although I had forgotten most of the details of this children's classic, it s actually a very powerful and emotional story about the ups and downs of a horse's life during Victorian times.
LibraryThing member JCalendula
This is one of my favorite books and has been since I was young. I have read it over and over. You are quickly absorbed into the story and I love how it makes you think about the way you treat both the people and animals you meet in your life.
LibraryThing member shakirh.b3
Black Beauty is an autobiography written by a horse about his life and his journey of being mistreated. Black Beauty is a gentle horse who was raised on a ranch in England on a beautiful meadow. He was well taken care of by his owners who was kind to his horses. His mother give him good advice, she wanted him to grow up strong and good, avoid bad habits and to work and behave well. Over time he was trained to pull cabs. He was sold to Squire Gordon who also treated him well and he met friends there. Soon his life turn to difficulty and abuse when he was constantly sold from one owner to the next. He spent his life working hard, he was forced to pull heavy carts, he wore bearing reins, at times he was injured and overworked. He was taken to auction and sold. The home was a happy place for him.

This book shows how unkind and cruel some people can be. Black Beauty when through a lot of suffering and abuse yet he was obedient, cheerful, kept a good temper and try to please his masters. I think this book is wonderful and very touching at the same time. It shows us that we should treat animals with love, kindness, patience and take good care of them.
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LibraryThing member jtaylo41
I enjoyed this cute book! I really enjoyed the way the author allowed her readers to learn about horses through horses' perspectives. It gives a mix of facts and fiction. For example the book states, “One day Farmer Grey decided it was time to break me in. I learned to wear a harness and a bridle with brinkers.” This quote was a fun way to learn the steps of breaking a horse in. It was also easy to connect to the horses because we were reading the story through their eyes. A great quote that shows this is, “”My mother said, “Some men are kind like our master. Others are not. A horse never knows who will buy them.”” The main message of this book was about animal cruelty and how to properly treat animals.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rosenstern
Sewell wrote a marvelous story about a horse in a man's world. The elegant writing style brought forth beautiful images. Being a horse isn't all fabulous and trotting about, as I had previously assumed. Not just for children, a classic. Worth the read.
LibraryThing member carlibmiller
This novel is all about the life of a horse called Beauty in the Victorian age. He tells tales about all his homes and owners, and the ups and downs about everything he encounters. The book also has a powerful message about the humane treatment of animals.
Beaut finally gets settled at his last home, and it turns out that he meets Joe Green, who was just a child the last time they met. Joe was ecstatic to be with Beauty again. The novel ends with the promise of a permanent home, and great friends.

I loved this book growing up and loved the movie. I grew up on a ranch with a bunch of horses and cattle and it made me think of a lot of the horses we have saved from the slaughter over the years. Such a beautiful story and a great lesson for children.The first lesson taught in this book was to get to know the things that you are afraid of because they might not be as scary as you thought. This is a valuable lesson for young children because they are usually scared of a lot of things and this teaches them that they do not need to be scared. Another lesson taught in this book was to always behave no matter who your owner is. This can be translated to students as you should always behave no matter who your teacher is. Students cannot pick their teachers, and even if they do not like them they still need to behave and respect them because they are adults. A third very powerful lesson taught by this book was that it is cruel to hurt the weak and helpless and that good people should be kind to man and beast. This is very important for young children to understand. They need to learn not to tease or hurt their peers. They also need to learn that it is not right to hurt animals because even though they cannot speak they still can feel pain. This book is very helpful in teaching students life lessons in a very subtle way. .

I would use this in a classroom by doing a unit over horses and read other horse books. I could have them write a little story about a horse or have them draw horse.
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LibraryThing member tesia.rose3
I think black beauty is the best story I ever read I never wanted it to end. From the begining that black beauty met his friends to the adventures he had with them I was trapped in the book and couldn't stop. I think that probably not many 9 year-olds have read Black Beauty. So Black Beauty is a young horse who is very polite because his mother had taught him well while the other fillies where horsing around. Black Beauty has grown up with great owners and not so great owners. He totally knows who is good and who is bad. When he get sold to other people he usually sees his friends around town. I personally thought the ending was sweet and I will never forget his story.… (more)
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
A year or so before I read this book I read Beautiful Joe and was hugely influenced by it to be kinder to animals. I approved of this book for the same reason as I liked Beautiful Joe, though I remember being puzzled by the horse being bothered by a device which kept the horse's head elevated--I don't think that was pertinent to the horses I had a lot to do with . Our horses were for work, not for show.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kweber8
Summary: Black Beauty, a strong and kindhearted horse, retells his life from his own perspective. He was always peaceful and helpful to all people who he crossed paths with. He never acted out and was always respectful to his owners, even though he was constantly being moved around form place to place. In the end, he is reunited with a childhood human friend that he remembers as a little boy and is ecstatic to be in loving hands again.

Review: A classic book shares a wonderful message about the importance of kindness to its readers. Readers will most likely be able to grab the broad message of animal treatment while reading the book, but I believe that the stronger message is revolving around kindness. Black Beauty is constantly being moved around and changing owners, while some owners a wonderful others are cruel and do not treat him will. During all of the changes in his life Black Beauty remains strong and treats all of his owners equally. He went about his ways because he knew that he did not have a choice. When he came to be at a place he liked such as Birtwirck, he was as happy as ever because he was treated with respect. This can show readers that one of the most important characteristics in a friend is kindness.
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LibraryThing member TeresaC1.G3
It starts when beauty was a colt with his mother at his first home. His mother told him never to bite or kick anyone.
LibraryThing member missjomarch
This book marks my sixth (#6) book read in my Classics Challenge to read 50 classics in 5 years. Most people have read this long before my age and consider it a childhood favorite. I had several horse-loving girlfriends growing up and surprisingly this never made it into my hands.

Told in the perspective of the horse itself, Black Beauty's message is repeatedly that of kindness. Throughout his life he changes homes and owners many times. Some behave kindly while other do not. Regardless of how Black Beauty is treated he perseveres in spite of it and continues to be a strong yet gentle horse. His compassion deepens after witnessing the inhumane and cruel conduct to his fellow horses by their owners and caretakers.

While this was elegantly written it was at a basic level and as such would consider and recommend it as ideal reading for children and/or young adults.

How I acquired this book: Purchase by husband on Mother's Day visit to Moe's Books in Berkeley
Shelf Life: 6 months
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LibraryThing member kholec1
“Black Beauty” is a timeless story depicting a beautiful horses life as he travels from home to home encountering many different types of owners. This story carries many powerful lessons for young children, taught by different characters. The first lesson taught in this book was to get to know the things that you are afraid of because they might not be as scary as you thought. This is a valuable lesson for young children because they are usually scared of a lot of things and this teaches them that they do not need to be scared. Another lesson taught in this book was to always behave no matter who your owner is. This can be translated to students as you should always behave no matter who your teacher is. Students cannot pick their teachers, and even if they do not like them they still need to behave and respect them because they are adults. A third very powerful lesson taught by this book was that it is cruel to hurt the weak and helpless and that good people should be kind to man and beast. This is very important for young children to understand. They need to learn not to tease or hurt their peers. They also need to learn that it is not right to hurt animals because even though they cannot speak they still can feel pain. This book is very helpful in teaching students life lessons in a very subtle way. Students can become attached to this character because it is a horse and therefore they are able to listen to the messages this book is sending and understand them easier.… (more)
LibraryThing member EquineSportingArt
First edition with Lucy Kemp-Welch illustrations. Deluxe edition signed by the illustrator. 1915 JM Dent & Sons

Publication

Wordsworth Editions Ltd (1998), Edition: Revised ed., 208 pages

Original publication date

1877

Pages

208

ISBN

1573353620 / 9781573353625

Language

Original language

English
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