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Robert Tressell, pseudonym of Robert Noonan Biography

(1870–1911), pseudonym of Robert Noonan, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

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Irish novelist, born in Dublin into a middle-class family. He emigrated to South Africa in the early 1890s, where he married and had a daughter. After the death of his wife, he sailed to England and settled in Hastings. He had been politically active in Africa, and once in Britain he joined the Social Democratic Foundation, a Marxist forerunner of the Independent Labour Party. In 1904, while working long hours as a housepainter and signwriter, he found time to start his novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, basing it closely on the working conditions and attitudes he encountered at first hand. The completed work was turned down by all the publishers to whom it was sent. The despairing Tressell consigned the manuscript to the fire, from which it was rescued by his daughter, Kathleen. By 1910 worsening health had persuaded Tressell to emigrate to Canada, and he travelled to Liverpool in an attempt to find work to pay his passage. He became ill, died in a workhouse of bronchial pneumonia, and was buried in a pauper's grave. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was published in an abridged version in 1914; the full-length version was not published until 1955.

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