street scene with many people and animals including a flock of sheep and two pillared buildings

Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

Like many “children’s classics”, Black Beauty was not originally written as a children’s book. So don’t hesitate to reread it right now, no matter how old you are. And then you can read it to the nearest passing child . . . assuming the child even knows what a horse is. You may need to make a detour into social history.

Black Beauty must have helped make things a little better for horses. But it’s worth noting that animal-cruelty laws were already on the books. The threat—and even the reality—of prosecution crops up several times in the story. So the book wasn’t presenting brand-new ideas that had never occurred to anyone before. Nor did the book lead to wide­spread prohibition of the bearing rein (also called the check rein). The style just went out of fashion, in the same way that “Look! She’s wearing a dead bird on her head!” took care of millinery fads.

Black Beauty (this page)

Contents (this page)

Part I   (Chapters I-XXI)

Part II   (Chapters XXII-XXXI)

Part III   (Chapters XXXII-XLV)

Part IV   (Chapters XLVI-XLIX)

About the Illustrations

About the Text

The text of this ebook is based on the Jarrold 19th edition, probably from 1894. Don’t be fooled by the numbers, though; this is essentially a line-for-line and page-for-page reprint of the first edition. One or two—but not all—typographical errors were corrected, while several new ones were added.

The full title: The first edition of Black Beauty had two subtitles: “His Grooms and Companions“ and “The Autobio­graphy of a Horse”, one after the other, with a supple­mentary “Trans­lated from the Original Equine”. The various later editions may use either subtitle, singly or in combi­nation. Sometimes, especially in American editions, they throw in the descriptor “The ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ of the Horse”.

Humans: The author is fond of Meaningful Names; it saves character delineation. So we have Black Beauty’s first master, the admirable Mr. Manly, and Ginger’s first master, Mr. Ryder; Mr. Sawyer the builder; Mr. Clay the brick­maker; the stingy cab-owner Mr. Skinner; and finally “my benefactor” Mr. Thoroughgood.

Is it just me, or . . . is the narrator’s style strikingly reminiscent of the submitters to Not Always Right?


Judging by appearances, the original publishers of Black Beauty had no idea what a sensation they had on their hands. The first edition, from late 1877, was decidedly low-budget. There was only one illustration, “The moon had just risen”, used as the frontispiece. By the time the 19th edition came around, a new frontispiece had been added, “The squire stood there”, along with the pair of Bearing Rein drawings. The original frontispiece was shifted to its natural place in the text, around page 120.

But that’s the “Popular” edition, a word that here obviously meant “cheap”. There are many illustrated British editions—and, thanks to the lack of international copyright, still more illustrated American editions. At least one American edition brazenly copies the pictures from the Jarrold 5th edition. For details, see the list of illustrations.


Unless otherwise noted, spelling and punctuation are as in the original. Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each Part. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctu­ation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.

Hyphenization is inconsistent. At first I assumed this was an artifact of the book’s success: every time it was reprinted, the typesetter looked at the previous edition and had to make his best guess about words that were found at line break. On the computer it’s trivial to pull up all examples of, say, “high-?bred” and look for patterns; in a physical book it’s much more labor-intensive. But as it turns out, the 19th edition is almost a letter-for-letter reprint of the first edition. So the inconsis­tencies were there from the beginning.

Some specifics:

lady in riding habit talking to horse

Black Beauty

young man in top hat leading horse up to older man in dressing gown holding a lamp

“The Squire stood there with a lamp in his hand.”—p. 85.



Popular Edition / Black Beauty: the Autobiography of a Horse / by A. Sewell. / Nineteenth Edition / London: Jarrold & Sons, 3, Paternoster Buildings.


Recommended by the “Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.”












“He was a perfect horseman, and never lost his temper with his horse, talking to and reasoning with it if it shyed or bolted, as if it had been a rational being, knowing that from the fine organisation of the animal, a horse, like a child, will get confused by panic fear, which is only increased by punishment.”—From the Life of Charles Kingsley, vol. ii., p. 9.



half-grown horse standing with his mother
I. My Early Home 9
II. The Hunt 12
III. My Breaking in 16
IV. Birtwick Park 21
V. A Fair Start 14
VI. Liberty 30
VII. Ginger 32
VIII. Ginger’s Story continued 38
IX. Merrylegs 43
X. A Talk in the Orchard 47
XI. Plain Speaking 54
XII. A Stormy Day 58
XIII. The Devil’s Trade Mark 63
XIV. James Howard 67
XV. The Old Ostler 71
XVI. The Fire 75
XVII. John Manly’s Talk 80
XVIII. Going for the Doctor 85
XIX. Only Ignorance 90
XX. Joe Green 93
XXI. The Parting 97
horse standing over fallen man lying face down
XXII. Earlshall 101
XXIII. A Strike for Liberty 106
XXIV. The Lady Anne, or a Runaway Horse 110
XXV. Reuben Smith 118
viii XXVI. How it Ended 123
XXVII. Ruined, and Going Downhill 127
XXVIII. A Job Horse, and his Drivers 131
XXIX. Cockneys 136
XXX. A Thief 144
XXXI. A Humbug 148
scene of death and destruction after a battle
XXXII. The Horse Fair 152
XXXIII. A London Cab Horse 157
XXXIV. An Old War Horse 162
XXXV. Jerry Barker 169
XXXVI. The Sunday Cab 177
XXXVII. The Golden Rule 183
XXXVIII. Dolly and a Real Gentleman 188
XXXIX. Seedy Sam 193
XL. Poor Ginger 198
XLI. The Butcher 201
XLII. The Election 205
XLIII. A Friend in Need 208
XLIV. Old Captain, and his Successor 214
XLV. Jerry’s New Year 220
people gathered around fallen horse in the street
XLVI. Jakes and the Lady 228
XLVII. Hard Times 233
XLVIII. Farmer Thoroughgood and his Grandson Willie 239
XLIX. My Last Home 244

grazing horse silhouetted against the sunset

Notes and Corrections: Introduction

[The four drawings illustrating the Contents are from the Thomas Crowell edition (ill. Bridgman), where they appeared in the body text at the beginning of each Part. The final small drawing of a horse at sunset is from the Hovendon edition (ill. Toaspern), where it appeared at the very end of the book.]

From the Life of Charles Kingsley
Italicized as shown.
[The original, multi-volume edition of Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of his Life was published in 1877, just in time to be quoted in the first edition of Black Beauty. The two-volume abridged edition, which is much easier to find, came later; it doesn’t include this passage.]