What advice did Black Beauty’s mother give him?

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Black Beauty ’s mother, Duchess, gives him some advice in chapter 1 of the novel, after he has been playing with the six colts with whom he shares a meadow. They have been playing roughly, kicking and biting as well as galloping. Duchess tells her son that the colts with...

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Black Beauty’s mother, Duchess, gives him some advice in chapter 1 of the novel, after he has been playing with the six colts with whom he shares a meadow. They have been playing roughly, kicking and biting as well as galloping. Duchess tells her son that the colts with whom he has been playing are the offspring of cart horses and have not learned manners. Black Beauty, however, is a thoroughbred of impeccable lineage. His father had a great name, and his grandfather even won trophies at Newmarket Races. He should not pick up bad habits from his lower-class companions. The Duchess herself has always set him a good example: he has never seen her kick or bite. She ends by saying:

I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.

Black Beauty says that he has never forgotten his mother’s advice, for she was a wise old horse. Although the characters are horses, the advice Black Beauty’s mother gives is typical of the Victorian era (Black Beauty was first published in 1877), and she sounds just like a class-conscious mother in a Dickens novel (Mrs. Nickleby, for instance), warning her children against picking up the accents and habits of their equally poor but less socially elevated neighbors. The name “Duchess” is clearly intended to emphasize her superior social class.

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