Anna Sewell (1820-1878)
British author who wrote the 'original' pony story, Black Beauty - although it was not written with the intention of being a children's pony story, it's purpose instead being to highlight the treatment of horses in 19th century England. Nevertheless it arguably sowed the seeds of the whole genre. For more information about the early development of the pony novel and it's roots in Black Beauty please click here
Ms. Sewell was born in Great Yarmouth in 1820. From an early age she was crippled in both legs, and throughout her life suffered continuing ill health. As a child she grew to love horses, and began to become concerned about their treatment. Her compassion was perhaps fostered by her mother Mary, a devout Quaker, abolitionist and purveyor of good works. Her mother may have inspired her literary side also, being a popular writer of children's books herself.
When Ms. Sewell's compassionate nature and interest in literature were combined, the result was to become one of the classics of literature. She began writing Black Beauty in 1871 and finished it in 1877. The book was never intended to be children's novel, it was instead meant to be an instructional or polemic work designed to induce empathy for the plight of the working horse. The fact that Ms. Sewell wrote the story from the horse's viewpoint was intended to heighten the sympathy of the reader for the horse.
The book became an instant success upon publication and did indeed become instrumental in helping the plight of the often overworked and sometimes cruelly treated horses of the time, especially in the eventual abolishment of the bearing rein. Sadly, the author died soon after the book's publication and it was to be her only novel. But it's literary legacy lives on both in the continuing popularity of the book itself and in the pony book genre in general.
As the book has been reprinted so many times, I am not going to attempt to list all the various editions or show pics of the hundreds of covers! There is however a link to the Fantastic Fiction website which has cover scans of many of the different editions.
The book itself is still in print after all this time and has inspired a large number of film and TV adaptations. A number of authors have penned stories about various relatives of Black Beauty including Christine, Diana and Josephine Pullein-Thompson, and Phyllis Briggs. There were also annuals produced which were based on the 1970s TV series, which it has to be said has only the most tenuous link to the original Black Beauty!
Lots of info on the internet about the author and Black Beauty and also you can find out more by reading the biographies by Susan Chitty and Adrienne Gavin.