Click on arrow to hear the song performed by Derek B. Scott, Professor of Critical Musicology, University of Leeds, to his own piano accompaniment c. 1985.

This song was written and sung to a tune by American composer George Root by respectable music-hall entertainer Harry Clifton, who was particularly fond of “motto songs.” It illustrates how dominant Victorian values, such as the work ethic, could infiltrate music-hall songs. It is referred to by Robert Tressell in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (left unfinished after his death in 1911) as a Tory anthem. It was parodied as “Strike, Boys, Strike,” but Clifton’s song is itself a rewording of Root’s American Civil War song “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!” of 1864. — Derek B. Scott


Scott, Derek B. The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour. 2nd ed. Aldershot, Hampshire; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

Scott, Derek B. Sounds of the Metropolis: The 19th-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris, and Vienna. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Last modified 7 February 2020