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.
Biographies about Anna Sewell
- Dark Horse: A Life of Anna Sewell by Adrienne E. Gavin
- Anna Sewell: The Woman Who Wrote Black Beauty by Susan Chitty
- Anna Sewell on Wikipedia
- Reader discussion of Black Beauty on Goodreads
- Black Beauty on Amazon
- The Sole Society
Articles, News, Etc.
Read and listen
- Sewell Park – St Clements Hill, Norwich, Norfolk, England
- Sewell Barn Theater – Constitution Hill, Norwich, England
- Sewell Park College – St Clements Hill, Norwich, Norfolk, England
- Anna Sewell’s Grave – Quaker Burial Ground, Lamas, Norfolk, England
- The Anna Sewell Birthplace and Childhood Home – Great Yarmouth,
- Anna Sewell Home – Old Catton, Norfolk, England
Anna Sewell Quotes
“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.” (Black Beauty, 1877)
“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?… It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrong-doers to light … 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.” (Black Beauty, 1877)
“There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham.”
“If a thing is right it can be done, and if it is wrong it can be done without; and a good man will find a way.” (Black Beauty, 1877)
“He said cruelty was the devil’s own trade-mark, and if we saw any one who took pleasure in cruelty we might know who he belonged to, for the devil was a murderer from the beginning, and a tormentor to the end. On the other hand, where we saw people who loved their neighbors, and were kind to man and beast, we might know that was God’s mark.” (Black Beauty, 1877)
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