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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Flamingo modern classics) Paperback – 13 Sep 1993

4.6 out of 5 stars 946 customer reviews

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Paperback, 13 Sep 1993
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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; (Reissue) edition (13 Sept. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586090363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586090367
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 2.7 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (946 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'The first great English novel about the class war, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is spiked, witty, humorous, instructive and full of excitement, harmony and pathos.' Alan Sillitoe 'Some books seem to batter their way to immortality against all the 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 Robert Tressell has complete familiarity with the idiom of his characters. His language is bizarre, vital, highly inventive and precisely heard -- it is a complete and living archaeology of the speech of a particular human group. A brilliant and very funny book.' Spectator

Book Description

Groundbreaking socialist novel and cult classic first published in 1914

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first read the "Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" around 1947. It aroused such an interest in me that the story has remained fresh in my memory all of my life. I am now nearly 73 years old. It has been described as the first novel written by a working class person. The description of working class life in such a rich country is a permanent blot on the history of Great Britain. However Tressell writes with such humour that one minute you want to cry and the next explode with laughter. As a result of reading Tressell's book I became a Socialist. Nothing in my life has caused me to change my mind. The characters that Tressell described at the beginning of the twentieth century live on today. Read this book and I guarantee that your thinking will be radically affected. It was the only book that he ever wrote. Tragically, he never lived to see it published. Some people say that it won the election for the Labour Party immediately after the war.
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This makes powerful reading. My sense from the start was that the story wasn't fiction outside the names of those peopling it, but in fact the author's own experience of life endured by the working class in England at the turn of 1900. That in itself made it fascinating.

At times I felt the author's rants about the evils of capitalism and the working class being their own worst enemy tiresome (if true), but then I realised his frustration with the mindset of those he spent his working life with would have made him feel the need to rave. What could be worse than spending your every working day in the company of miserable forelock-tuggers, men who at once idolised and hated their masters, and hated themselves even more. We see much of this frustration in the character Owen and his contempt for his fellow workers for regarding their state of starvation and wretched poverty as a privilege and are fiercely committed to preserving the system that keeps them downtrodden. Kudos to the reader who wrote: 'Not only is capitalism unsustainable but immoral.' One need only look at how far downhill the world had gone (as capitalism has gained a surer foothold) in the hundred years since this book was written to know that. More than ever people find no shame in stepping on (or even stomping on) each other to gain an economic advantage.

When a used-to-be Socialist tells Barrington 'enlightenment will never be brought about by arguing with people,' I couldn't have agreed more. While Barrington took this on board as dishearteningly true, delightfully, it didn't take the fight out of him. If one is passionate about changing injustice, even against the odds, one can't help but go on fighting the fight to inform and educate others.
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Format: Paperback
I am ashamed to say that I have only recently read the unabridged version of Robert Tressell's Ragged Trousered Philantropist [RTP]. Many years ago I read my father's copy of the original Penguin edition that was an abridged version that had previously been abridged. Having lived in and walked the streets of Mugsborough [Hastings] all my life I felt almost duty bound to read it. I began with slightly gritted teeth knowing if I abandoned it before the end I would be reluctant to start over any time soon. As it turned out I found it engrossing, I didn't want it to end, it was one of those rare books I wanted to live in.
There is so much here. It's political message is, in a sense, blunted in the twenty first century. The solutions it offers were it least in part manifested in the post war settlement of the Attlee government that has been under attack since the 1980's. But the overarching questions that it asks -What are the causes of poverty, why do those oppressed willingly accept the values of the oppressors, why do they not rise up in revolt and take issue with the system that disadvantages them, remain vibrant.
On another level this is an historic record of the early twentieth century written from the ground up with cast iron authenticity. The author captures enough detail of his surroundings and of the characters to make it believable, touchable and easily recognisable. Tressell himself was a workman, his richly detailed account of working class life in Edwardian England is drawn from first hand experience. His understanding of human nature and its distortions caused by poverty were not imagined but drawn from his everyday experience.. It seems nothing short of miraculous that under these conditions he was able to write such an insightful account of what he experienced.
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Format: Paperback
Although this book was written nearly 100 years ago, so much is still pertinent today. I have worked in the construction industry for 40 of those years and have met and worked with many of Tressel's characters. I have bought and given this book to several workmates in the hope that some of Tressel's humanity could be imparted and some of his dignity could be passed on. Construction is still a much under-valued occupation and its employees are if anything far more exploited now than at the turn of the last century. I am amazed so few builders have even heard of this book. I doubt one in a thousand or even one in ten thousand of those I've worked with have read it, or even know of its existence. Perhaps in another 100 years they might and perhaps they will not be so philanthropic. I wonder !
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