Writing Black Beauty

Writing Black Beauty
WhenSaturday 08th June 2024 at 14:00
WhereThe Exchange, Sturminster Newton
1 Old Market Hill
Sturminster Newton
DT10 1QU

Event TypeTalks
Also available at 1855, Market Cross, Sturminster Newton

Celia Brayfield will talk about her book Writing Black Beauty and how ​Anna Sewell influenced the development of the animal welfare movement in Victorian Britain.

WRITING BLACK BEAUTY is the story of an extraordinary woman who wrote a phenomenal book. Anna Sewell was born in 1829 to a young Quaker couple and grew up in poverty in London. She was about fourteen when she fell and injured her ankle, which left her permanently disabled. Rejecting the life of a Victorian invalid, Anna developed a remarkable empathy with horses, learning to ride side-saddle and to drive a small carriage. Rebellious and independent-minded, she suffered periods of severe depression as a young woman and left the Quaker movement although she lived by its principles for the rest of her life and remained close friends with the women writers, activists and abolitionists who had been empowered by its liberal principles.
It was not until Anna became terminally ill, aged 51, that she found the courage to write her own book and, tragically, she died just five months after Black Beauty was published in 1877. Eventually, a worldwide bestseller, Black Beauty, is now recognised as the first anthropomorphic novel, setting a trend that led to Paddington Bear, Charlotte’s Web and The Lion King. It has had an extraordinary emotional impact on readers of all ages. After modest success in Britain, it was taken up by a charismatic American, George Thorndike Angell, a campaigner against animal cruelty who unhesitatingly weaponised the book and made it one of the bestselling novels ever. Total sales are now estimated between 30 and 50 million copies.
WRITING BLACK BEAUTY: Anna Sewell and the Story of Animal Rights also tracks Britain’s change from a nation notorious for animal cruelty to one at the forefront of the animal welfare movement. It establishes Anna Sewell’s decisive influence in popularising the cause of animal welfare in Britain and America through the RSPCA and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Celia Brayfield for the first time identifies Anna Sewell as only one among many influential women writers in her close family. Newly discovered archive material reveals how Anna Sewell developed extraordinary resilience to overcome her disability, rouse the conscience of Victorian Britain and make her mark upon the world.

Celia Brayfield, PhD SFHEA, is the author of nine novels, ranging from international bestsellers to acclaimed social comedies. She has also written six non-fiction books of which the latest is Rebel Writers: The Accidental Feminists, a biographical study of the very young women writers of the 1960s, published by Bloomsbury in 2019. She also teaches Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Celia lives in Dorset, where she enjoys gardening, walking and fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast.

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