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For bohemians everywhere

A Ragged Trousered Bohemian

By Sarah Janes (Feb 2011)

Bohemia 100 years ago

Robert Tressell banner

Robert Tressell banner

As we go to print today – 3rd of February 2011, we are remembering the great Robert Tressell, who died on this day 100 years ago. Robert’s famous tragic-comic and socialist spirited book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists was written in Bohemia, on London Road, just around the corner in fact from the offices of the Bohemia Village Voice – a plaque commemorates outside number 241. If you live in St Leonards and Hastings and haven’t yet read this book, you really must do so this year, on the 100 year anniversary of his death.

Sadly Robert was only 40 when he died of tuberculosis during a visit to Liverpool – he was planning to emigrate to Canada. No publisher would accept the book in his lifetime and it was only his wife Kathleen’s tenacity and faith that helped the book eventually find a publisher in Grant Richards. Richards paid only £25 for the manuscript and copyright and the first edition cost six shillings which was far beyond the means of the average working person of that time.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a harrowing read in places but is an incredible insight into life in Hastings and St Leonards 100 years ago. So many people lived in poverty, died of starvation and were unable to support their families even though they worked like dogs all day. The social divides at this time were harsh and there was no benefit system in place to support those who were unable to work for whatever reason. Many people ended up dying in the work house and there were hundreds of orphans. The council was famously corrupt, with councillors lining their own pockets instead of providing basic facilities for their constituents. We could all learn some lessons by picking up Robert Tressell’s excellent tome and we could go even further by visiting the ‘Mugsborough’ exhibition showing till 27th March at Hastings Museum on Bohemia Road.


By Susanne Gifford, Aug 2011

Dear Sir – I always enjoy the Voice, particularly the historical stuff. I‘m going to come across as a bit of an anorak but I just wanted to inform you that the relationship of Kathleen to Robert Tressell, was not wife, [Voice 78, page 4], but daughter.
Susanne Gifford.
Thanks Susanne, Ed.

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