Study Guide

The Clueless People in Black Beauty

By Anna Sewell

The Clueless People

Earl and Lady W, Mr. York, Lady Anne

In this book, we learn that being clueless is sometimes just as bad as being evil. Beauty encounters quite a few people who manage to make his life much worse, either by ignorance or inaction.

The Earl and Lady W

Beauty's first home after Birtwick, Earlshall, is the home of Earl and Lady W. (Apparently their names have been kept secret to protect the guilty?) The Earl is perfectly nice, but he's not particularly involved with his horses, and Lady W is a real problem. She's all about fashion, and she would rather be caught dead than be seen with horses that aren't wearing bearing reins. Unfortunately, this means she totally ignores common sense; despite the advice of coachman Mr. York, she orders him to tighten all the bearing reins of her horses, saying:

"York, you must put those horses' heads higher […] They are not fit to be seen." (22.16)

Well then. Between the Earl's inattention and the Lady's desire for fashion above common sense, the W's are responsible for a lot of the pain and mistreatment of their horses.

Mr. York

Mr. York is the coachman at Earlshall, and it's not that he's a bad guy or an unskilled groom, it's just that he fails to stand up for the horses. When Lady W asks for tighter bearing reins, he tells her it's a bad idea, but he does it anyway—and of course it ends in disaster, with Ginger rearing and kicking. Later, he complains that he knew something bad would happen:

"I thought we should have some mischief soon […] But here, if a woman's husband can't rule her, of course a servant can't; so I wash my hands of it […]." (23.5)

Beauty knows York's well-aware of the effect of the bearing rein, but York thinks he's powerless. Nonetheless, York's refusal to take a stand might be just as bad as Lady W's ignorant requests.

Lady Anne

Another hapless human Beauty encounters is Lady Anne, who, like Lady W, disregards the advice of a more experienced horse person. Most of the time, she rides Beauty (or as she calls him, Black Auster), but one day she insists on riding Lizzie, a very pretty but nervous horse. Her riding companion, Blantyre, tells her not to do it, saying:

"She is a charming creature, but she is too nervous for a lady. I assure you, she is not perfectly safe." (24.6)

She basically tells him to shut it, because she's a great rider. But what's that saying again? Oh right—pride comes before a fall. Lizzie gets startled and runs away with Lady Anne, and Beauty's forced to ride after them in pursuit. Lady Anne falls and is badly hurt, and although she recovers, her cluelessness stands as one of the many lessons in the book.

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