It earned eternal name and fame for its author Anna Sewell, an invalid who died within a few months of publication.
According to current estimates, it has sold more than fifty million copies world wide, been translated into many languages and delighted generations of children.
The original title page reads: Black Beauty: Translated from the original Equine by Anna Sewell and this gives the reader an instant glimpse into what the book will be about.
As an autobiography written by a horse and told from his point of view, it was indeed an original and unique concept for the time. Strangely enough, Anna Sewell never intended the book to be exclusively read by children
She meant it to be a manual for those who worked with horses so that they would develop more compassion and kindness when dealing with these mute beasts.
While it apparently talks about animals, the book is a great source of education for human beings too and teaches them how to treat each other with respect, dignity and kindness. The famous opening lines,
The first place I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow…. set the tone for the rest of the book. It traces the journey of the beautiful and noble horse, born in privileged circumstances whose life takes a turn for the tragic when her wealthy owner falls on hard times.
Sold into a fashionable household, Beauty is ill-treated and uncared for till his health is finally broken. He is sold to a London cabbie and has to earn his keep pulling heavy carriages in all kinds of weather.
The treatment of animals, their welfare and the conditions in which they’re kept, the often inhuman and cruel attitude of people and animal rights are some of the topics touched upon.
It is a book that can be read on several levels. For child readers, it is a delightful tale told by an animal. Adults would recognize the essential humanitarian appeal made by the author. In fact, such was the impact of the book that it led to several landmark legislations regarding animal welfare in Britain and America.
Filled with memorable characters, vivid descriptions and poignant scenes, Black Beauty is indeed a fabulous book to settle in with for a pleasant read.