Robert Noonan worked from 1900 until 1911 as a painter and decorator in Hastings and St Leonards on the Sussex coast.
One evening Noonan came home from work and began to write about the "system" and why it should be smashed.
Noonan had written pamphlets before. He was active locally after all in the Marxist inclined Social Democratic Federation.
This time Noonan kept writing. Phelan (2005) notes that by the time he had finished he had described the facts of working class life in "1647 handwritten pages of bloody, sweaty, thinly fictionalised detail and plain, raging socialist propaganda."
Noonan was worried that his book would trigger reprisals from the authorities, from employers and from fellow workers. He decided therefore to use the pseudonym, Robert Tressell. This was probably a reference to the trestle tables used in his trade.
In any case the manuscript was rejected by publishers and in August 1910 Noonan left for Liverpool. He was hoping in due course to set sail for Canada. However he fell ill and died in a workhouse on February 3, 1911. His body was thrown into an unmarked pauper's grave.
Noonan's daughter still had the manuscript fortunately and the book finally appeared three years later. The "Ragged Trousered Philanthropist" soon became hailed as a socialist classic. To this day it is still regarded as a "must read" for many on the Left.