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Ragged Trousered author's Liverpool pauper's burial

Robert Tressall, the author of The Raggered Trousered Philanthropists is buried in Liverpool where he died in 1911

A classic left wing novel takes to the stage at the Liverpool Everyman this week in the city where it's author died in poverty and obscurity.

The Ragged Trouser Philanthropists was written by Dublin born Robert Tressall in 1910, but was rejected by publishers and only came out after his death.

In 1911 he was attempting to emigrate to Canada when he died in Liverpool.

His burial place in a pauper's grave with 12 other people lay undiscovered until 1970.

Stephen Twigg, the Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, appears in an audio book of the story and says the tale of socialist decorators attempts to get his colleagues to rise up against capitalism has had a resonance for generations of political activists, "I think the influence of the book has grown over the century since Robert Tressall's death," he told BBC One's Politics Show.

"I was asked to play the part of Barrington, I think because he was the middle class character in the book.

"The book probably wouldn't be seen as very New Labour or from that part of the party.

"But I think the lessons in the Ragged Trouser Philanthropist are relevant to all sections of the Labour Party and the wider progressive Labour movement."

Still relevant

Liverpool historian John Belchem thinks the novel retains its relevance a hundred years after it was written, "Here's a novel which is stuffed full of corrupt politicians, corrupt councillors, exploitative capitalists, religious hypocrites and so on.

"I don't think we've seen the last of those.

"For many people reading Robert Tressell is like the scales falling from your eyes and realising that there is a possible new life that there is a new socialism that promises everything for everybody.

"It's an incredibly influential work in that sense."

A blue plaque on the wall of the Liverpool Royal Infirmary building marks the place where the author died of phthisis pulmonalis - a wasting disease associated with tuberculosis that affects the lungs.

The Everyman production of the book is directed by Christopher Morahan, who brought Jonathan Pryce to the theatre in The Caretaker in 2009.

In 1967 he created a version of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists for BBC Television.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is at Liverpool Everyman from 17 June to 10 July, 2010.

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