Since its original publication in 1914, Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has been a secret weapon of the grass-roots Left in Britain. Perhaps the first novel written by a working man about his working life, the utterly human story it tells scrutinizes the capitalist system with clarity and sharp wit. This beautiful, accessible, and engaging new graphic novel adaptation, by Scarlett and Sophie Rickard, has brought the message to a new generation of readers in the UK and is now available in North America.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists traces the political awakening of Frank Owen, and the team of painter-decorators with whom he works, and whose stories are intertwined with his. Exploited by profiteering employers, abandoned by a hypocritical church, and oppressed by corrupt politicians, Owen confronts head-on the greed and dishonesty of the pre-War capitalist system. As profoundly relevant as it is today, however, this is no dry political tract. Instead, the 350 full-colour pages of Scarlett and Sophie Rickard’s sumptuous adaptation celebrate the joys of fellowship and creative endeavour as beautifully as they convey the ugliness of its exploitation.
An inspiration to successive generations of political thinkers for over 100 years, Robert Tressell’s paean to the working man and woman here finds its perfect medium. Orwell called Tressell’s novel “a book that everyone should read”; the Rickards’ adaptation is a work of art that everyone should see.
The graphic novel is out December 14th.