The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists: Beginnings – Rickard Sisters
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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists: Beginnings

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was published on April 23rd 1914 with the subtitle “being the story of twelve months in Hell, told by one of the damned, and written down by Robert Tressell”.

Tressell was the pseudonym of Robert Noonan, who had died of tuberculosis 3 years earlier. Noonan was an Irish decorator and sign writer who spent his final decade in Hastings, England, recording injustices with wit and political fervour. The resulting 1600 pages of handwritten manuscript collected rejections from publishers, though not quite as many as Harry Potter. Noonan’s daughter Kathleen preserved it from being thrown on the fire.

The edition that Kathleen brought to posthumous  publication was cut down to 90,000 words (from the original 250,000) with big chunks of the ideology discarded. The full work (upon which we have based our version) was not published until 1955. The intervening 40 years had brought two world wars and a radically different world. The following 60 saw the book established as a global classic and in 2003 it was placed at 72 in the BBC’s survey to find Britain’s best loved novel of all time (The Lord of the Rings came first).

There have been several stage adaptations and two Radio 4 Classic Serial versions with star studded casts. If you fancy reading all 250,000 words you can download it for free from project Gutenberg, or pick up the Penguin Modern Classic for £2.99 on Kindle or £2.25 in paperback. Audible offer an excellent twenty-three hour long reading for one credit. 

A picture paints a thousand words, of course, and we make the art to do the hard work in this first graphic novel of the classic. We hope that those of you who know and love the book find it to be a sensitive adaptation – we have stayed as faithful to the original as possible, mostly using Tressell’s dialogue and including almost all the subplots and characters. Our book will pack all of this into under 400 pages of detailed full colour art. 

The people of Mugsborough leap from the page – from the endearing apprentice Bert White to his menacing and offensive foreman Bob Crass (pictured at the top of this blog eating his bloater) – and we hope you will grow to love them as much as we have. You can watch the book take shape on these pages, and keep in touch with us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear what you think of our plans.

We are grateful to the Arts Council for a supporting grant, and look forward to working with SelfMadeHero on print publication in Autumn 2020. We shall be doing comic-art workshops on telling working-class stories too, so if you are keen to get involved why not get in touch.

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