This unique tale is narrated by a lovely, gentle horse named Black Beauty and has remained a children's classic since it was first published in 1877. 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 worldwide, 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.
The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty—beginning with his carefree days as a foal on an English farm with his mother, to his difficult life pulling cabs in London, to his happy retirement in the country. Along the way, he meets with many hardships and recounts many tales of cruelty and kindness. Each short chapter recounts an incident in Black Beauty's life containing a lesson or moral typically related to the kindness, sympathy, and understanding treatment of horses, with Sewell's detailed observations and extensive descriptions of horse behavior lending the novel a good deal of verisimilitude.
The book describes conditions among London horse-drawn taxicab drivers, including the financial hardship caused to them by high license fees and low, legally fixed fares. A page footnote in some editions says that soon after the book was published, the difference between 6-day taxicab licenses (not allowed to trade on Sundays) and 7-day taxicab licenses (allowed to trade on Sundays) was abolished and the taxicab license fee was much reduced.
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