According to Wikipedia, it was composed in the last years of her life, during which she remained in her house as an invalid. The novel became an immediate best-seller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, but having lived long enough to see her only novel become a success. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time.
When one of the publishers I deal with announced this “new” reprint of the original, complete with Cecil Aldin‘s wonderful illustrations, I was delighted but didn’t seriously consider it for my HoofPrints customers, who all surely have a treasured copy already. What I did NOT consider was these same folks would be buying copies to gift to friends, and a careful replication of the original hard cover, cloth bound version, with embossed silver lettering makes the best gift EVER. The only thing missing is the wonderful old book smell.
As I paged through the copies that arrived, old memories came flooding back from my childhood. In the late sixties I would have never witnessed a horse pulling a heavy load with it’s head checked up by a bearing rein, but my little heart was steadfastly against such cruelty and would have certainly spoken out should I have encountered it.
These days, the atrocities are a bit different. Horses are subject to all manner of restraints to cause them to look sharp in their new “jobs” at competitions. One doesn’t have to look far online on issues dealing with equine welfare to discover that things like soring and rollkur are this era’s bearing rein. And the Anna Sewells of this century and speaking out against such things every bit as boldly and eloquently as Anna did in 1877.
One thing that has remained mostly the same is the employment of auctions to buy and sell horses. At one end of the spectrum, auctions are glamorous and exciting, at the other end, not so much.
We see this exact thing today, horses falling into dire straits due to evil, ignorance and apathy. The most surprising element to this story, that I had again forgotten, that Black Beauty’s ultimate savior was a dealer; someone who bought horses “fixed them up” and sold them. A vocation that is mostly reviled today, but in this story this dealer’s arrangement sounded more like how many modern day horse rescues operate – acquiring horses out of bad/hopeless situations, addressing their health issues, evaluating their training, and ultimately pairing them with owners who will appreciate and care for them properly. How interesting to consider this unwanted horse issue is not so new after all.
At any rate, if you know someone who does not own a copy of this classic book, this is the version for them! It’s only $14.95 here.
***note*** The images above are from the book, but the type added on them was my doing. You can see full size, shareable versions on HoofPrints facebook page here – while you’re at it, please sign up to follow HoofPrints posts like this: