Robert Tressell described his famous book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists as ‘the story of twelve months in Hell, told by one of the damned’. This biography of Tressell, first published in 1973, tells the story of a man about whom virtually nothing – not even his real name – was known before Fred Ball began his research.
Ball describes the family, educational and social background of Robert Tressell; his move from his early upbringing in Ireland to become a house-painter in Hastings (the Mugsborough of his novel); his becoming a socialist; his travels abroad; his other writings, and his creative work as a specialist sign-writer. Not least, it tells the story of the writing and the publication of his classic book, and of Ball’s own role in ensuring the publication of the original unabridged version of the book in 1953. Ball was a researcher of skill and enthusiasm, and his book describes clues and leads, and the way the story fell into place, until he was finally able to do full justice to a man who had hitherto been a somewhat shadowy figure.
F.C. Ball was the author of several novels, and of an earlier book on Robert Tressell, Tressell of Mugsborough (1951). He was born and worked throughout most of his life in Hastings.