“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.” –Anna Sewell
Born on this date in 1820 in Norfolk, England, Anna Sewell wrote one of the all-time Classic young adult novels, Black Beauty. And yet, she intended to write a missive directed at those who worked with horses to shame them into providing better treatment. Written over a 6-year period (between 1871 and 1877) and published just shortly before her death in 1878 from tuberculosis, Sewell was shocked and angered by what she termed “cruel treatment of some of our best friends.”
Mostly too weak to write because of her debilitating illness, she would sometime scribble notes on small pieces of paper and other times dictate what she wanted said to her mother, who then transcribed the notes and read them back to her for final editing.
Sewell sold the novel to local publisher Jarrolds in November 1877, when she was 57 years old. She said "a special aim [was] to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.” She died five months after her book was published, but lived long enough to see its initial success and realize that it would, indeed, have a major impact. Laws were passed for more humane treatment, many sparked by the outrage of her book.
“Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody's business to interfere when they see it.”
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