I've been enjoying the Guardian's 1000 novels everyone must read series, but John Sutherland's depiction of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty is worth taking the time to correct here in the unedited backwaters of the internet (catch the conflation of Gulliver's Travels and Sophie's Choice under the William Styron entry for yourself).
The most famous animal story of the 19th century. The novelty of the work is that it is narrated by a horse (apparently sexless), which is miraculously able to talk like a well-brought-up Victorian servant. Black Beauty tells his life story from foal to colt to broken-in mount and ﬁ nally to broken-down hack. The work is strongly marked by Sewell's passionate hatred of cruelty to animals and her campaign against the use of the "bearing reign". The most good natured of quadrupeds, Black Beauty oﬀ ers a ﬁ nal message: "We horses do not mind hard work if we are treated reasonably."
First, Black Beauty is not apparently sexless. He's a colt, which is a male foal, and the humans call him "boy." Since this is a Victorian novel, it is understandable that our narrator spared us mention of his gelding. Do you know why a male horse might be gelded, John?
And Sewell hated the bearing rein. You know nothing about horses, do you, John? Well, you know they have four legs, and you used a big word to describe that condition (because it's an important concept for readers to grasp, I'm well aware), but really, your summary does not bring about any confidence that you've actually read the book you are reviewing or that you have a grasp of the subject matter it contains.
I'm not calling you a broken-down hack and saying you should be put out to pasture, John, but you foundered on this one.
Where on earth was your editor?
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