The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Paperback

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists Paperback

Part of the Penguin Modern Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


A sustained attack on selfish capitalism, and a Socialist critique of Edwardian England's social inequality, Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists includes an introduction by Tristram Hunt in Penguin Modern Classics.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists tells the story of a group of working men who are joined one day by Frank Owen, a journeyman-prophet with a vision of a just society.

Indicting the 'philanthropy' of the working class, who toil solely for the benefit of their masters, and initiating them into the secrets of the 'Great Money Trick' which alienates them from their labour, Owen's spirited attacks on the greed and dishonesty of the capitalist system rouse his fellow men from their political quietism.

A masterpiece of wit and political passion and one of the most authentic novels of English working class life ever written.

Robert Noonan (1870-1911) who took the pseudonym 'Tressell' from the 'trestle table' of the sort used by decorators, was an Irish housepainter who came to England from South Africa in 1900.

He settled in Hastings, where he worked as a signwriter for various building firms. Tressell never lived to see his book in print; he died of tuberculosis in 1911, aged forty.

If you enjoyed The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, you might also like Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk, available in Penguin Classics. "Some books seem to batter their way to immortality against all odds, by sheer brute artistic strength, and high up in this curious and honourable company must be counted The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Robert Tressell's unfailing humour mixes with an unfailing rage and the two together make a truly Swiftian impact." (Evening Standard). "A brilliant and very funny book." (Spectator). "[It] has always seemed to me a wonderful book." (George Orwell, author of Animal Farm). "The first great English novel about the class war...witty, humourous, instinctive and full of excitement, harmony and pathos." (Alan Sillitoe).




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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

I tried, I really tried but I could not finish this book - got about half way and retired defeated.Working class life in the 19th century, poverty , class conflict and all.Worthy but dull

Review by

A must-read for any would-be socialist. Tressell presents to the reader a scene of everyday society, with real characters and plot devices and imbues everything with a heightened sense of the politics underpinning it all.

Review by

As someone with socialist sympathies this book appealed to my political sensitivity. I felt indignation at the hopeless predicament the proletariat in this novel were entrapped in and their inability to understand how they were being exploited by a self serving greedy elitist system, bar a minority of individuals who constantly throughout the book tried to explain in the most simplistic way, why they were all in "abject poverty" and how to make a fairer society for all, but were constantly mocked by the majority of the workforce. Even if your not a socialist, this book is worth a read. A genuine heart felt story.

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