Anna Sewell

anna sewell, author of black beauty

Anna Sewell (March 30, 1820 – April 25, 1878) was a British novelist who had only one published book — Black Beauty — to her name. Anna’s mother, Mary Wright Sewell (who outlived her daughter by a few years) was herself a successful author of poetry and children’s books. In her teens, Anna began helping with the editing of her mother’s book, which likely helped her to set foot on a similar path.

At age 14, Anna fell while walking home from school and broke both of her ankles. The treatment was shoddy, and so she never fully recovered, spending the rest of her life unable to stand or walk for very long. Being compelled to getting around with horse-drawn carriages awoke in her an empathy for these beautiful animals.

Anna loved horses and cared deeply about their treatment, as well as that of all of animals. What she had observed had often been less than humane. As her health declined, she could hardly leave her bed and had difficulty writing. As her work progressed on Black Beauty, she was compelled to dictate it to her mother in order to finish it. She hadn’t intended it as a children’s book; rather, she wrote it for those who loved and owned or worked with horses, with the hope “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.”

The book was published when she was 57 years old, in 1877. Anna Sewell died five months later, either of hepatitis or phthisis. At least she lived to see how well Black Beauty was received in its first few months after publication.

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