Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body Joseph Addison, English Essayist, Poet, Dramatist and Statesman. 1672 - 1719

'Clarice's Book Page' is the 'reading room' of the 'Elizannie' page at:

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

We often talk about 'books which change lives'. This is one which has certainly had a great influence on mine.

I cannot let the opening pages of this blog go without reference to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. This is not a great work of English Literature but can truly claim to be a book that has changed many lives. For instance several 'Old Labour' party members claim it changed their lives/caused them to become Socialists. The comedian Ricky Tomlinson claimed it made him into a 'proper' political activist.

It is the story of working people in the 1900s, before any form of welfare state was introduced and how easily the whims of fortune or their employers could reduce them to destitution and the workhouse.

We may be 100 years away from the time setting of this novel but if government policies cause a return to many of the problems highlighted in this novel, albeit in a more 'modern' form {we may not have workhouses anymore but some state proposals may mean pensioners will lose all savings before State help becomes available, student fees are rising, disability living allowance is being cut etc etc} Tressell will be spinning in his grave.

Tressell himself died in poverty in Liverpool just before he could board a boat to America, looking for a new life and work. His book was not published until a few years after his death. Tressell was originally buried in an marked pauper's grave along with 12 others. A headstone was erected on this grave honouring not only Tressell but also those with him in 1977 by subscription of Socialists and Trade Unionists.

First 'published' in a slightly different form in the Elizannie blog, Thursday, 27th May 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment