Anna Sewell

From Academic Kids

Anna Sewell (March 30, 1820April 25, 1878) was a British writer, the author of the classic novel Black Beauty.


Anna was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, in a Quaker family, one of two children. Her brother, Philip (1822-1906) had an early career as a construction engineer in Europe building railways.

At the age of 14, Anna fell while walking home from school in the rain, injuring both her ankles. Possibly through mistreatment of her injury, she became lame for the rest of her life, and was unable to stand or walk for any length of time. For greater mobility, she frequently used horse-drawn carriages, which contributed to her love of horses and concern for the humane treatment of animals.

She never married or had children, but lived at home, and remained very close to her mother, Mary Wright Sewell. Mary was an author of evangelical children's books, which Anna helped to edit. As Quakers, the Sewells, and her mother's family, the Wrights were active in good works.

While seeking to improve her health at European spas, Sewell encountered various writers, artists, and philosophers, that her previous background had not exposed her to.

Sewell's only publication was Black Beauty, which she wrote between 1871 and 1877. During this time her health was declining, she was often so weak that she couldn't get out of bed, and writing at all was a challenge. She dictated the text to her mother and from 1876 began to write on slips of paper which her mother then transcribed.

Sewell sold the novel to the local publishers Jarrold & Sons for 40 on 24th November, 1877 when she was 57. Although now considered a children's classic, she originally wrote it for those who worked with horses. Anna said 'its special aim being to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses' (Mrs Bayly, 272). The book's sales broke publishing records, it is said to be 'the sixth best seller in the English language' (Chitty in Wells and Grimshaw, x).

Sewell died of hepatitis or phthisis on 25th April 1878 just five months after its publication; living long enough to see the book's initial early success. She was buried on 30th April 1878 in the Quaker burial-ground at Lammas near Buxton not far from Norwich.

Her birthplace in Church Plain, Great Yarmouth, is now a museum.

The cottage where she lived, from 1866 until her death, in Old Catton, then a village now a suburb of Norwich, remains a private residence.


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