Another answer is that 'The Philanthropists' is not a treatise or essay, but a novel. My main object was to write a readable story full of human interest and based. A Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and the Empire: Robert Tressell in South Africa as Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists} In the seventy. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell –. Chapter 1. 2. Bert White 3. Owen saw that in the world 4. 'Funny name to call a.
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Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists A book by Robert Tressell First published The novel’s protagonist Frank Owen is angered by the condition. “ragged-trousered philanthropists” of the book’s title: willing. Download The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists free in PDF & EPUB format. Download Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered.
For there is a strange thing about this classic of British socialism. By the time Robert Noonan got back from South Africa, Arthur Griffith had already established himself as Irish nationalism's most effective organ- izer, using support for the Boer cause as his vehicle. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link. It was around that time that the Labour Party was founded and began to win seats in the House of Commons. Lindenbaum claimed that Elizabeth had told him that Robert 'had [caught? By 'protecting' pre- industrial people against capitalism, it put them into a separate political space.
It was published that year in much abridged form in the United Kingdom and in an even more abridged form 90, words, from the original , , in The publisher removed much of the socialist ideology from the first edition.
An unabridged edition with Noonan's original ending was first published in , edited by F. Ball, who also wrote two biographies of Tressell, Tressell of Mugsborough , and One of the Damned: The Life and Times of Robert Tressell Clearly frustrated at the refusal of his contemporaries to recognise the inequity and iniquity of society, Tressell's cast of hypocritical Christians, exploitative capitalists and corrupt councillors provide a backdrop for his main target—the workers who think that a better life is "not for the likes of them".
Hence the title of the book; Tressell paints the workers as "philanthropists" who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages to generate profit for their masters. One of the characters, Frank Owen, is a socialist who tries to convince his fellow workers that capitalism is the real source of the poverty he sees all around him, but their education has trained them to distrust their own thoughts and to rely on those of their "betters".
Much of the book consists of conversations between Owen and the others, or more often of lectures by Owen in the face of their jeering; this was presumably based on Tressell's own experiences.
The book provides a comprehensive picture of social, political, economic and cultural life in Britain at a time when socialism was beginning to gain ground.
It was around that time that the Labour Party was founded and began to win seats in the House of Commons. The book advocates a socialist society in which work is performed to satisfy the needs of all, rather than to generate profit for a few. A key chapter is "The Great Money Trick", in which Owen organises a mock-up of capitalism with his workmates, using slices of bread as raw materials and knives as machinery.
Owen 'employs' his workmates cutting up the bread to illustrate that the employer, who does not work, generates personal wealth whilst the workers effectively remain no better off than when they began, endlessly swapping coins back and forth for food and wages. This is Tressell's practical way of illustrating the Marxist theory of surplus value , which in the capitalist system is generated by labour. The three-storied house that is under renovation in the book, referred to frequently as the "job", is known by the workmen as "The Cave": The air was full of the sounds of hammering and sawing, the ringing of trowels, the rattle of pails, the splashing of water brushes and the scraping of the stripping knives.
It was also heavily laden with dust and disease germs, powdered mortar, lime, plaster, and the dirt that had been accumulating within the old house for years.
In brief, those employed there might be said to be living in a Tariff Reform Paradise—they had Plenty of Work. Given the author's interest in the philosophy of Plato , it is highly likely that "the Cave" is a reference to Plato's " Allegory of the Cave ". A major recurring theme in Tressell's book highlights the inability and reluctance of the workers to comprehend, or even consider, an alternative economic system.
The author attributes this inability, amongst other things, to the fact that they have never experienced an alternative system, and have been raised as children to unquestioningly accept the status quo, whether or not it is in their interests.
In Plato's work, the underlying narrative suggests that in the absence of an alternative, human beings will submit to their present condition and consider it normal, no matter how contrived the circumstances. Owen sets out his view in the first chapter:.
What we call civilisation—the accumulation of knowledge which has come down to us from our forefathers—is the fruit of thousands of years of human thought and toil. It is not the result of the labour of the ancestors of any separate class of people who exist today, and therefore it is by right the common heritage of all. Every little child that is born into the world, no matter whether he is clever or dull, whether he is physically perfect or lame, or blind; no matter how much he may excel or fall short of his fellows in other respects, in one thing at least he is their equal—he is one of the heirs of all the ages that have gone before.
Writing in the Manchester Evening News in April George Orwell praised the book's ability to convey "[w]ithout sensationalism and almost without plot He considered it "a book that everyone should read" and a piece of social history that left one "with the feeling that a considerable novelist was lost in this young working-man whom society could not bother to keep alive".
Lawrence , and James Joyce , and yet is largely unknown Tressel's bitterness and anger are mixed with compassion, sympathy and a sharp sense of humour. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. In doing so, he played a sly joke on his English readers, almost certain not to spot these references.
The painting department of Robert's Johannesburg employers, Herbert Evans, operated out of a yard located in Kerk Street.
But English-speaking Johannesburg rendered the name as Kerk Street. In RTP the Grand Parade is the site of the 'Slave Market', Robert's satire oh the insecurity which the labour market inflicts on workers as they offer themselves for employment. But real slavery had existed not so long before in the environs of the Cape Town Grand Parade; this had been an area of actual slave markets.
And at the opposite end of Strand Street from the Grand Parade was the Bo-Kaap, the part of the city in which lived the inaccu- rately-termed 'Cape Malays', Moslem descendants of the slave popu- lation. The city was burgeoning under the impact of the 'Mineral Revolution' - the regional socio-economic upheaval pre- cipitated by the discovery of diamonds on the colony's northern periphery in , and the opening of the Johannesburg goldfields, in the Boer- controlled Transvaal, in Cape Town became the major port and rail centre for the region's newly-generated economic activity.
The population rose from a mere 28, in to 67, in , and to , in Whereas in Cape Town had a roughly equal balance of men and women in the population, by the city had the large and growing surplus of males typical of colonial towns. The colony had a prop- erty-qualified but non-racial franchise, which made 'Coloureds' a substan- tial minority of the city's electorate.
By the end of the nineteenth century Cape Town's upper classes, under the impact of imperialist and social- darwinist ideologies, were moving in the direction of a more formalized racial hierarchy. The main area where working-class racial amity was beginning to fray was that of employment.
White and 'Coloured' artisans had historically worked alongside each other. But in the s British arti- sans introduced craft unionism to the city. White workers began to articu- late their attempts to protect craft skill and to prevent wage cuts in racial terms.
The attempts at developing British-style unions in the town were still fragmentary and unstable. It was only after the Boer War that a powerful, strongly-articu- lated white union movement would voice a coherent racist ideology. It seems to have generally been assumed by readers of RTP that the story of Ruth Easton, who is seduced and has a child by the vile Alf Slyme, is simply part of the novel's rich social background, drawing on Noonan's capacity for invention.
These papers make it possible to suggest that the story of Ruth and William Easton is derived from that of Robert and Elizabeth Noonan's marriage, and that like the rest of the book it is largely autobiographical.
They met when he was painting a house in which she was 'general servant'. The couple rely on William's income, and are under great strain over money matters.
William Easton blames these problems on what he thinks is Ruth's mismanagement, and is oblivious to the material sacrifices she is making.
To increase their income, Ruth and William rent their spare room to William's workmate, the religious bigot and hypocrite, Alf Slyme. William develops a drinking habit, wastes his money and ignores Ruth's emotional needs. Slyme takes the opportunity to ingratiate himself with Ruth, gradually overcoming her instinctive aversion to him.
In the pub Ruth is ignored by William, and pressured into drinking far more than she wants. William quarrels with Ruth, shouts at her and pushes her, and she leaves on her own.
Alf Slyme comes upon Ruth, who has collapsed in the street from alcohol. Slyme takes Ruth home and seduces her. Shortly after this, Slyme leaves his lodgings at the Eastons. William knows nothing of what has taken place, but his relationship with Ruth degenerates, worsened by financial troubles, and his continued drink- ing.
Ruth cannot bring herself to admit what has happened. Mary Linden and her children, the family of a worker who has died in the Boer War, come to live as lodgers, and Mary and Ruth become close friends. Mary tells William that Ruth is pregnant. Still not suspecting anything untoward, he sees this as the explanation of why Ruth has been acting 'strangely'.
When the child is born, William comes home to find Ruth distraught and hostile to him, dashing his hopes that all will be well.
Ruth becomes feverish and for a fortnight is 'unconscious of her surroundings and often delirious'. As Ruth talks in her delirium, Norah and Mary learn the full story. Ruth starts to get better, but one night when William returns, she has fled. Ruth intends to drown herself and the baby, but turns back and throws herself on the help of Nora, who takes Ruth and the child into her house. Three days later, William receives a letter from Ruth telling him everything.
William sees himself as the injured party and tries to persuade himself that he does not regret the outcome.
His little son Freddie remains with him. But at work Frank Owen challenges William to accept responsi- bility for what has gone wrong. Eventually William concedes that 'he is a great deal to blame'. Elizabeth initially remained with her mother in the Cape Town suburb of Mowbray.
She arrived in Johannesburg to join Robert on 15 September In December, Elizabeth returned to Cape Town 'on holiday'. She was reluctant to return to the Transvaal. Robert's evidence is unclear here, but it seems that Elizabeth did come back to Johannesburg briefly, and returned to Cape Town for the last time in early March A child was born in August.
Robert wrote to Elizabeth, and received a letter which said nothing about the child: Hearing Elizabeth was ill, Robert again came to Cape Town. Robert seems to have had suspicions as to whether he was the child's father, but was not certain; he told the judges that he had 'doubts but no proof so did nothing'. On arrival in Cape Town, Robert found Elizabeth 'delirious'. Elizabeth had been introduced to Lindenbaum by her mother. The child was presumably conceived during Elizabeth's December Cape Town holiday.
But Thomas Lindenbaum did give evidence. Lindenbaum told the court that he had sex with Elizabeth in December But Lindenbaum also gave an account of the sequence of events which differed from Robert's. Lindenbaum claimed that Elizabeth had told him that Robert 'had [caught?
Recalled by Judge De Villiers, Robert said that 'There was an affair with Saunders, but she denied it, and I had no proof, so forgave her'. He said that his decision to leave Cape Town related to the fact that 'Business was bad, and I went to Johannesburg partly for that'. The court granted the divorce, and awarded Robert custody of Kathleen who was already living in Johannes- burg. The similarities between Noonan's court-room account of his marriage, and hisfictionalaccount of Ruth and William, suggest that in both instances he was telling the same story.
In both cases the central couple has one earlier child of their marriage. In both the marriage started happily, but was increasingly overshadowed by money problems the cause of Ruth and William's initial quarrel, and a factor in Robert's departure for Johannes- burg. Both Ruth infictionand Elizabeth in reality gave birth to a child who was not their husband's. Robert claimed in court that he did not know for certain before the baby's birth that he was not the father; William in the novel has no inkling that he is not the father until after the baby is born.
Like Elizabeth, the novel's Ruth is ill after the birth of the child. Speaking of Elizabeth in his court evidence and of Ruth in his book, Robert used the same word - delirious - to describe these post-natal illnesses. In both novel and life, the elder child stayed with the father when the marriage broke up.
At the start of the book, William Easton is twenty- three years old;35 contradictorily, later in the story, which stretches over only one year, he is twenty-six. On this basis Robert's claimed age when his mar- riage started to break up would have been twenty-six. And twenty-six was his real age when the divorce was granted.
I would argue that this closeness between the two narratives suggests that it is likely that William Easton is a partial self-portrait of Robert Noonan. Frank Owen is the ideal socialist militant, self-sacrificing, determined, kind and just. Like Noonan he is tubercular and somewhat depressive.
He is Noonan's idealized self. Barrington, the middle-class socialist who has chosen to work as a painter, reflects the complexity of Tressell's social back- ground although unlike Noonan, Barrington is not financially trapped in the working class.
But one can suggest that there is a third Noonan in the book: William Easton. William would seem to embody Robert's criticism of his own role in the break-up of the marriage. It is striking how relentlessly condemnatory the book is of William's insensitivity and selfishness. His drinking also comes in for intense criticism, despite Noonan's great hostil- ity to temperance ideas. In the novel, Owen, who represents the highest ethical standards, tells William that: What has happened is the natural result of your neglect and want of care for her.
The responsibility for what has happened is mainly yours Owen tells William;.. The sub-plot of the book dealing with Ruth and William may then be seen as providing an imaginative resolution of the conflicts which Robert Noonan felt about his marriage. Through William's recognition of the role that his behaviour played in the failure of the marriage, Robert may have been able to express his own feelings of guilt toward Elizabeth.
The debate between Owen and William about responsibility for the collapse of the marriage can then be seen as a debate between Robert's 'better' and 'worse' selves and the reconciliation between Ruth and William as answering Robert's longing for reconciliation with Elizabeth.
The Ruth story may then be viewed as Robert's meditation on the relationship between personal and social morality. It may be understood as foreshadowing the concerns of a much later generation about the politics of the personal. It deserves to be recognized as an important part of RTP's vision of a better future society.
The place to which he came, Johannesburg, had grown from the tented mining camp of into a rough-and-ready city of nearly , people.
Most of the mine labour was per- formed by intensely-exploited African migrant workers, dwelling in resi- dential compounds. Skilled underground work was done by British especially Cornish , Australian and North-American miners. The city was an overwhelmingly male one, for few of the men, African or foreign, brought family members with them.
To minister to the needs of mine owners, managers and miners an ethnically-diverse range of employments sprang up; there were Afrikaner cab drivers, Zulu washermen, East-Euro- pean prostitutes, and a cosmopolitan legion of barkeepers.
The politics of s Johannesburg was a three-cornered contest from which African workers were effectively excluded. Both the mine-owners and the Boer leadership had an interest in winning the support of white workers. In order to bring about British intervention in the Transvaal, the imperial lobby needed to be able to demonstrate that the British subjects in the country were united in regarding themselves as groaning under the Boer yoke.
Through their organization, the South African League, the pro-imperial forces made every effort to mobilize white workers in their cause. The Transvaal mines of the s were no white- labour paradise.
Miners experienced horrendous mortality rates from lung disease. And although white wages appeared high from afar, this was offset by the extremely high cost of living created by shortages and transport prob- lems. The white labour force thus had no reason to love the 'Randlords'. The Kruger government shrewdly exploited this gap during the s, making a number of popular concessions to workers in the fields of econ- omic policy and workplace regulation.
Partly as a result of this, there seems to have been considerable scepticism amongst the Johannesburg white labour force about calls for British intervention. It seems that it was only in , in the immediate run-up to the war, that the pro-imperial grouping began to win the propaganda contest amongst white labour.
If Robert Noonan had deliberately set out to select a city where he could examine the worst excesses of capitalism, he surely could not have found one so appropriate for this purpose anywhere on the planet. Johannesburg was already an international byword for greed, commercial swindles, and wanton disregard of human life. Olive Schreiner described it in a letter to Edward Carpenter as a 'great,fiendish,hell of a city If RTP gives us a particularly sharp account of the inexorable logic of the unlimited pursuit of profit, we should remember that Robert Noonan came from a place where that logic worked in a far more unchecked way than in Hastings.
The Rand drew in young, single, male workers from the becalmed economies of the Cape and other parts of the Empire. In the mines were roaring ahead, in their great- est boom of the decade.
Robert was possibly attracted to Johannesburg by news of the resulting building expansion. The number of new buildings erected in the city almost doubled from 1, during to 2, during Evans, a painter from Shrews- bury, had worked in the colony of Natal in the s. Coming to Johannes- burg in , he rapidly established the city's leading painting and decorating business.
On 19 February a railway train carrying tons of dynamite blew up at Braamfontein goods yard, just north of central Johannesburg. The explosion killed an unknown but very large number of people, scattering lumps of flesh about the vicinity. Many buildings were demolished, and windows were shat- tered throughout the city. Herbert Evans saw this as a great opportunity for the decorating business. Evans thus achieved a virtual monopoly of the repair of Johannes- burg's windows, and was anxious to make the best of this advantage.
Robert's Johannesburg life explains a particularly puzzling aspect of RTP. The book seems to reflect extensive experience of trade-union and socialist organization.
Owen, the character most identified with Robert Noonan, is the secretary of the Painters' Society, and is shown writing up their minutes. Barrington, one of the other Tressell-identified figures, is shown at the end of the book, preparing to become a full-time political organizer.
But nobody has ever shown that Tressell was a member of a trade union in Hastings. And his membership of the Hastings SDF was consider- ably interrupted and limited by his devotion to finishing his book. So the question arises of why Robert seems to have portrayed himself in the novel as somewhat more politically active than his life in Hastings would suggest. An answer is that it was not in Hastings but in Johannesburg that Robert Noonan was most active as a labour organizer.
During the s, a number of attempts were made to initiate organization amongst British and other immigrant workers in Johannesburg. Herbert Evans and Co'. The meeting of about sixty people, mainly British trade unionists and German socialists, elected Robert Noonan to the committee of the newly-formed organization. The IILP had a real impact on Transvaal politics, and came close to inducing the Boer parliament, the Volksraad, to enact eight-hour day legislation.
And he had been initiated into the world of socialist politics before commencing his adult life in Britain. It is also possible to suggest how Noonan may have first come into contact with contemporary socialist ideas in Johannesburg.
Bain was a Scot, and a fitter by trade. He had served in the British army in the Zulu War of In , shortly after arriving in Johannesburg, Bain took to addressing public meetings on socialism from the back of an ox-wagon in the Market Square.
His voice would often be heard in this venue for the next two and a half decades. Now it is fairly unlikely that Noonan came under socialist influence in Cape Town, as there does not seem to have been any explicitly socialist activity there until a first group was formed in And Bain had particular links with two socialist thinkers whose influence on RTP is plain.
Robert Blatchford was one. And the more polemical sections of RTP bear some similarities to Blatchford's technique. It is quite impossible that Robert would have been exposed to Blatchford's influence before arriving in South Africa, for the founding of Blatchford's Clarion newspaper and the publication of his famous books and pamphlets only took place after Tressell was already living in Cape Town. But Bain publicized Blatchford's writings in Johannesburg from an early stage.
As part of his effort to promote the Witness, Bain gave away free copies of Blatchford's Clarion with every subscrip- tion. The critique of the degradation of craftsmanship in the contemporary workplace in RTP is very close to Morris's ideas, and we know from Ball's book the Tressell was a Morris admirer. Socialism had little purchase on Ireland in the s, and Morris himself recognized, after an unsuccessful Irish speaking tour, that socialist ideas would make little headway there as long as the question of Home Rule was unresolved.
He had heard the great man in his youth,62 and was quoting Morris in public speeches in Johannesburg as late as Robert Tressell in South Africa 77 Two aspects of the labour movement of early Johannesburg are likely to horrify early twenty-first century admirers oiRTP. One is that it was moving towards the politics of racial segregation in industry.
The other is its support of the Transvaal government, which unquestionably believed in white domi- nation. There can be little doubt that Robert Noonan at least acquiesced in this politics. According to the Transvaal Leader, when the TLC first took action, it held a public meeting to protest against the employment of black skilled labour. The protest proved to be a popular one, and one of the results was that after that architects inserted in their contracts clauses that only white skilled workmen should be employed.
Connor, approached the Transvaal government's executive committee complaining of a contractor's employment of people of colour as skilled workers in the construction of the new Johannesburg Post Office, which, Connor claimed, was having a negative effect on wage rates.
The Council asked for legislation to address this issue. The IILP regarded the protection of skilled white labour as a cardinal point of its policy.
At the IILP's founding meeting Robert was accused of having previously spoken dis- paragingly of President Kruger and defended himself vigorously against this charge. Valid as this point of view was in itself, it blinded pro-Boers to the coercion inher- ent in Boer control over African society.
These were genuine enemies of imperialism - but only insofar as whites were its victims. How are we to understand that one of British socialism's great intellec- tual heroes could have worked in such a racist milieu? At the turn of the century a new ideology was being developed amongst the globalized working class of the British and Irish diasporas. This ideology, White Labourism, involved a world view in which white workers did not separate the critique of their own exploitation from racist hostility to the competition of black workers.
White Labourism was still in an embryonic phase on the Rand of the s; the South-African version was still weak compared to the Australian, and organizations were fragile.
There were British controversies over the use of Chinese labour in the Transvaal, and over the employment of Asian and African sailors in British ships.
The Australian labour movement, with 'White Australia' as a key part of its programme, was widely discussed and admired in British labour circles.
It seems to me that Tressell's thinking was affected by White Labourist ideas, and that there is evidence of this within the text of RTP.
The way that he addresses this topic gives some clues as to how Noonan could have per- suaded himself to reconcile his inherent sense of justice with the politics of the White Labourists. At its most complex, White Labourism presented itself not only as protecting white workers but also as protecting African and Asian peasants against capitalist exploitation.
At the same time, the argument went, white labour gained because it was defended from the 'unfair' com- petition of low-wage, unfree labour. White Labourists could thus convince themselves that they were shielding both white and African labour against the excesses of the capitalists. The real sting in the tail of versions of this idea espoused by socialists, however, was that only those inside industrial society could be part of the project of socialism.
This allowed a doctrine to be elabor- ated in which socialism was seen as a whites-only affair. By 'protecting' pre- industrial people against capitalism, it put them into a separate political space. This kind of viewpoint does tend to emerge in RTP. Frank Owen says: If a man is only able to provide himself and his family with the bare necessities of existence, that man's family is living in poverty. Since he cannot enjoy the benefits of civilization he might just as well be a savage: What we call civilisation - the accumulation of knowledge which has cone down to us from our forefathers - is the fruit of hundreds of years of human thought and toil.