The Ragged Trousered Philanthopists
The Ragged Trousered Philanthopists

Sutton and Cheam are developing a Local Bookclub to discuss books of interest to local members and supporters.

The first one we are discussing is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell which can be downloaded for free here.

A Facebook page for discussion of each book is here.

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (1914) is a semi-biographical novel by the Irish house painter and sign writer Robert Noonan, who wrote the book in his spare time under the pen name Robert Tressell. Published after Tressell’s death from tuberculosis in the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1911, the novel follows a house painter’s efforts to find work in the fictional English town of Mugsborough (based on the coastal town of Hastings) to stave off the workhouse for himself, his wife and his son. The original title page, drawn by Tressell, carried the subtitle: “Being the story of twelve months in Hell, told by one of the damned, and written down by Robert Tressell.”

Grant Richards Ltd. published about two-thirds of the manuscript in April 1914 after Tressell’s daughter, Kathleen Noonan, showed her father’s work to her employers. The 1914 edition not only omitted material but also moved text around and gave the novel a depressing ending. Tressell’s original manuscript was first published in 1955 by Lawrence and Wishart.

An explicitly political work, the novel is widely regarded as a classic of working-class literature. As of 2003, it had sold over one million copies. George Orwell described it as “a book that everyone should read”.

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