The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
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Robert Tresell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists was first published in 1914 after his death in 1911. An explicitly political work, it is widely regarded as a classic of working-class literature. The book recounts the little daily successes and the disasters of a group of working-class men, living under the constant fear of being laid off by employers forever looking for new corners to cut.
Brighton Rock and ahead of John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman. In 2003 The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists notched up 72nd place in the BBC’s ‘Big Read’ poll, here taking on the entire range of the history of ﬁction and staying ahead of Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and Dickens’s Bleak House. Even if, to adapt Kingsley Amis’s words, the term ‘leaguetables’ sums up most of what has gone wrong with contemporary Britain, there are times when such tables are
the paint, and, superintended by Hunter, made it thicker. Misery then seized the brush and prepared to demonstrate the possibility of ﬁnishing the work with one coat. Crass and Sawkins looked on in silence. Nimrod 37 Just as Misery was about to commence he fancied he heard someone whispering somewhere. He laid down the brush and crawled stealthily upstairs to see who it was. Directly his back was turned Crass seized a bottle of oil* that was standing near and, tipping about half a pint of it
seriously as Owen. They ﬂattered themselves that they had more sense than that. It could not be altered. Grin and bear it. After all, it was only for life! Make the best of things, and get your own back whenever you get a chance. Nimrod 41 Presently Harlow began to sing. He had a good voice and it was a good song, but his mates just then did not appreciate either one or the other. His singing was the signal for an outburst of exclamations and catcalls. ‘Shut it, for Christ’s sake!’ ‘That’s
Trousered Philanthropists ‘Do you think you know anyone who would take it?’ asked Ruth. Easton smoked thoughtfully. ‘No,’ he said at length. ‘But I’ll mention it to one or two of the chaps on the job; they might know of someone.’ ‘And I’ll get Mrs Crass to ask her lodgers: p’raps they might have a friend what would like to live near them.’ So it was settled; and as the ﬁre was nearly out and it was getting late, they prepared to retire for the night. The baby was still sleeping, so Easton lifted
apron and blouse. ‘I’ve ’ad bloody near enough of it already.’ ‘Wish to Christ it was breakfast-time,’ growled the more easily satisﬁed Easton. Extraordinary as it may appear, none of them took any pride in their work: they did not ‘love’ it. They had no conception of that lofty ideal of ‘work for work’s sake’, which is so popular with the people who do nothing.* On the contrary, when the workers arrived in the morning they wished it was breakfast-time. When they resumed work after breakfast they