One of the great authors of the turn of the 19th/ 20th Centuries, Robert Tressell tends to get overlooked compared to many of his better-known contemporaries, and to this day is pretty much unknown outside Britain.

He was born in Dublin in 1870 into a comfortable middle-class family: his father was an inspector with the Royal Irish Constabulary. His father died while he was still a young child which seriously disrupted his life and meant that he never completed his education. In his early 20s he moved to South Africa and became involved with the Irish Brigade, a militant anti-British group of Irish who fought on the side of the Boers. Many members of the Irish Brigade later returned to Ireland and were involved with demands for independence and the 1916 uprising, and this is probably where Tressell first came into contact with organised left-wing and revolutionary ideas.

in 1901 Tressell returned to the UK, settling in Hastings on the English south coast. After having used up his remaining finances he took a job as an interior decorator -- at that time a highly-skilled and comparatively well-paid job. This however brought him into direct contact with less skilled workers and general labourers, and finding himself utterly shocked at the appalling conditions in which many of them spent their entire lives, he formed many of the opinions and ideas which he would later employ in his novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

His left-wing ideals and beliefs solidifed during this period, and he was a founding member of the Hastings branch of the newly-formed Social Democratic Federaion, a group allied to the also-recently-born Labour Party. The rise of socialist ideas in Britain in this period meant that a strong and vehement anti-socialist current was pushed forward by both the local and national press, and Tressell often found himself on the receiving end of the police violently breaking up meetings.

Tressell's health started to worsen in 1910 and in early 1911 he died. However he left behind one great legacy, the handwritten manuscript for a book entitled The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, more information about which can be found at the relevant writeup.

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