Labour History Review

‘Fiction with a solid background of genuine autobiography’: The critical reception of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in 1914

Labour History Review (1996), 61, (2), 195–211.


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The quotation is from the review in the Glasgow Evening News. We are indebted to the help provided by the staff of the Newspaper Section of the British Library at Colindale, London, and the Irish and Local Studies Section of the Belfast Public Library. The following newspapers/periodicals for 1914 were consulted for reviews of the RTP. Names or initials of reviewers, where given, are in brackets. The cutting from The Northern Whig originates from the press cuttings of Jessie Pope which were handed on to Kathleen Noonan. Unfortunately this one bears no date and searches at the British Museum and Belfast Public Library have failed to locate it, although the latter library has confirmed it is from that newspaper. The Athenaeum, 25 April; Birmingham Daily Gazette, 5 May; The Clarion, 8 May (Winifred Blatchford); Daily Chronicle, 24 April; Daily News and Leader, 23 April; Daily Sketch, 23 April; Daily Telegraph, 24 April; The Dial, 16 June (Lucian Gary); Dundee Advertiser, 16 April; Edinburgh Review, vol. 220, July (Walter de la Mare); Glasgow Evening News, 30 April: Justice, 4 June (H. W. I. It is possible that this is a printing error and that it should be H. W. L., i.e. H. W. Lee, editor of the paper at that time); Manchester City News, 18 April; The Nation, 25 April; New Republic, 14 November (R. S. B.); New Weekly, 25 April; New Witness, May; The Northern Whig, Observer, 3 May; Review of Reviews, May; The Scotsman, 30 April; The Star, 2 May (James Douglas); Sunday Times, 3 May; Tatler, 20 May; The Times Literary Supplement, 23 April. Google Scholar

Robert Tressell was the pen-name of Robert Noonan. For a concise account of Robert Noonan's life, his book and a complete bibliography see the entry in J. Saville and J. M. Bellamy (eds.), Dictionary of Labour Biography, vol. 10 (forthcoming). The spelling given by Noonan on the original title page was ‘Tressell’; Grant Richards mistakenly used ‘Tressall’; in correspondence with his daughter Kathleen Croker (i.e. Noonan) and in the first abridged edition of the RTP. Google Scholar

Changes discussed by W. Hutton, The State we're in, 1995, chapter 7. Google Scholar

F. C. Ball, One of the Damned, 1973. Google Scholar

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W. N. Coxall, ‘Bridging the experience gap in the early 1900s: The literary relationship between H. G. Wells and George Meek’, Literature and History, 1992; C. Griggs, ‘George Meek, the ragged trousered Robert Tressell of Eastbourne’, Labour History Review, vol. 58. no. 1, 1993. ‘Bridging the experience gap in the early 1900s: The literary relationship between H. G. Wells and George Meek’ Literature and History Google Scholar

Ball, One of the Damned, p. 169. Google Scholar

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Grant Richards to Miss Croker, 22 August 1913. We are grateful to Mrs Joan Johnson. Robert Noonan's grand-daughter, for access to this correspondence. Google Scholar

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Ball, One of the Damned, p. 170. Google Scholar

Robert Tressell Workshop, The Robert Tressell Papers, Rochester, 1982, pp. 25-8. The Robert Tressell Papers 25 8 Google Scholar

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J. London, The People of the Abyss, 1903, Panther edition, 1963, p. 6. Google Scholar

Nine years previously Grant Richards had been in dispute with James Joyce over the publication of Dubliners. Richards had requested various deletions from the manuscript, including the adjective ‘bloody’, but, faced with a protracted defence of his work by Joyce, had ended by rejecting the book. See P. Keating, The Haunted Study: A Social History of the English Novel 1975-1914, 1991, pp. 268-71. Google Scholar

G. Meek, George Meek: Bath Chair-Man, 1910, p. 176. See also B. Coxall and C. Griggs. George Meek - Labouring Man; Protégé of H. G. Wells, 1996. Google Scholar

Ball, One of the Damned, p. 91. Google Scholar

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Author details

Coxall, Bill

Griggs, Clive