This week (March 27- April 2) in literary history – Poet Louis Simpson was born (March 27, 1923); Novelist Mario Vargas Llosa was born (March 28, 1936); Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin were married (March 29, 1797); Novelist Anna Sewell was born (March 30, 1820); Charles Dickens published first installment of The Pickwick Papers (March 31, 1836); Western novelist Vardis Fisher was born (March 31, 1895); Hans Christian Andersen was born (April 2, 1805)
Highlighted story of the week –
On March 30, 1820, Anna Sewell was born in Norfolk, England. The daughter of a successful children’s book writer, she helped edit her mother’s manuscripts from an early age but was not published herself until she was 57. Her novel, Black Beauty, was the first significant children’s story in the English language to focus on animal characters, and established the precedent for countless other works.
Appalled by the cruel treatment of horses by some masters during her day, Sewell wrote the book to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses. The story, narrated by the horse, showed Black Beauty’s progression through a series of increasingly cruel owners until the exhausted, ill-treated animal collapses. In the end, the horse is saved by a kind owner.
Sewell wrote the book during the last seven years of her life, when she became an invalid confined to her home. The book was published shortly before her death in 1878 and became one of the best-loved children’s classics of all time. The book was made into a movie three times, in 1946, 1971, and 1994. Anna Sewell is buried at the Quaker Burial Ground in Lamas, Norfolk, England.
Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends.