Robert Tressell (3243 words)

  • Julie Cairnie (University of Guelph)

Most writers deserving of a substantial profile in The Literary Encyclopedia have a significant oeuvre. Robert Tressell wrote only one novel, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914; 1918; 1955), and it was published and celebrated posthumously. His bereaved daughter, Kathleen, sold it to the publisher, Grant Richards, for a “mess of pottage”: £25. This was a meagre sum given the book’s phenomenal success: the 1955 edition has never been out of print. Aptly, the book points out the irony of the Poor’s generosity: “ragged trousered philanthropists” give away their labour and its products for a “mess of pottage”. The text’s solution is to “fill the House of Commons with Revolutionary Socialists�…

Cairnie, Julie. "Robert Tressell". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 17 August 2008
[, accessed 25 October 2016.]