Study Guide

The Good Masters in Black Beauty

By Anna Sewell

The Good Masters

Farmer Grey, Squire Gordon, Jeremiah Barker, Farmer Thoroughgood

Beauty changes owners so many times throughout the story that it would be pretty tedious to go through each one, especially since some of them are around for what seems like five minutes. We don't know much about many of these people, although it's surprising how much you can tell about a person from the way they treat a horse. Quite a few of them are incredibly important in Beauty's life, making it clear that Beauty's fate and often his happiness are entirely in the hands of his master.

Farmer Grey

Beauty is born at Farmer Grey's farm, and his happy childhood is all due to Farmer Grey's excellent care. We don't know much about Farmer Grey as a person, but we can tell from the start that his heart is in the right place when it comes to horses. He owns Beauty's mother, Duchess, and allows Beauty—whom he calls "Darkie"—to stay with her for all of his infancy and childhood.

Beauty calls him a "good, kind man" who "[…] spoke as kindly to us as he did to his little children" (1.8). Farmer Grey demonstrates his generally awesome horsemanship by punishing a ploughboy who throws sticks at his young colts and by training Beauty with great skill and thoughtfulness. Beauty often remarks that his training and gentle treatment at Farmer Grey's is the reason he grows into a good-natured, gentle horse. Farmer Grey is a friend of Squire Gordon's, who becomes Beauty's next master.

Squire Gordon and Family

Squire Gordon, the kind owner of Birtwick Park, is responsible for Beauty's happiest times. He keeps Beauty in a beautiful stable and employs the best of groomsmen and stable boys. Beauty calls him "[…] a very good rider, and thoughtful for his horse too" (5.9). He's the total horse-owning package, you might say.

He's married to Mrs. Gordon, who favors Beauty as her riding horse. Beauty is particularly fond of her in turn, saying, "[…] her voice was sweet, and her hand was so light on the rein, I was guided almost without feeling it" (10.1). This is exactly how Beauty likes to be handled, so these two make a perfect pair.

Squire Gordon's only son, George, is killed at the beginning of Beauty's story in a hunting accident Beauty witnesses when he's very young. The accident also kills George's horse, Rob Roy, who turns out to be Beauty's brother. (Sadly, Squire Gordon doesn't ride much due to his son's accident.) It's Squire Gordon who gives Beauty his most lasting name, Black Beauty, and Beauty has some of his most exciting adventures with Mr. Gordon, including a time when he saves his master from a storm-damaged bridge.

Squire Gordon and his wife must ultimately leave Birtwick Park due to Mrs. Gordon's ill health, and the family's departure is greatly mourned by everyone who knows them, horses and humans alike.

Jeremiah Barker and Family

It seems like Beauty's life is sliding downhill until he has the good fortune of being bought by Jeremiah Barker, a London cabbie. Jerry, as he's called by his friends, is barely making ends meet, but he and his family are the best of humans. As Beauty explains:

They were all wonderfully fond of each other […] I never knew such a happy, merry family before or since. (33.1)

Jerry lives with his wife, Polly, and his two children, Dolly and Harry, in a fairly run-down part of London, and they give Beauty the name Jack, after a former cab horse. Soon enough Jerry proves to be as good a master as Beauty could wish for: "In a short time I and my master understood each other as well as horse and man can do" (33.14), Beauty says.

Even though he doesn't have much money, Jerry puts a high priority on the good care of his cab horses. He's also a very pious man and refuses a lucrative request to drive his cab on Sundays because he believes Sunday to be a day of rest. Jerry repeatedly proves himself to be unusually selfless, caring, and heroic, breaking his "no Sundays" rule to drive a friend to visit her ailing mother. And on one very busy Election Day in London, he helps a woman get her son to the hospital and refuses to accept payment.

It's not that Jerry's perfect and doesn't struggle with himself at all, though. He confides to his fellow cabbie, Governor Grant, that he once had a problem drinking too much, but his wife helped him quit and he's stayed sober over ten years. Jerry, then, is the kind of person who can commit to change and do the hard work to make it happen.

Sadly, one freezing New Year's Eve, Jerry gets very sick after waiting out in the cold with the cab and almost dies. Just like Beauty's beloved Mrs. Gordon, Jerry moves out of London to take care of his health, and Beauty's incredibly sad to lose such an outstanding master.

Farmer Thoroughgood and Willie

Like his name, Farmer Thoroughgood is just that—thoroughly good. Thoroughgood's grandson, Willie, spots Beauty at a horse sale when Beauty is at the very end of his rope and convinces the farmer to buy Beauty and rehabilitate him. Willie is just as nice as his grandfather, and "[…] always came with kind words and caresses, and of course I grew very fond of him" (48.24). They give Beauty the nickname Old Crony, and eventually find a forever home for him with Miss Ellen and Miss Blomefield.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...