We have heard it asserted a dozen time o'er
   That a man may be happy in rags,
That a prince is no more, in his carriage and four,
   Than a pauper who tramps on the flags.
As I chance to be neither, I cannot describe
   How a prince or a pauper may feel.
I belong to that highly respectable tribe,
   Which is known as the Shabby Genteel.

        Chorus: Too proud to beg, too honest to steal,
I know what it is to be wanting a meal.
My tatters and rags, I try to conceal,
I'm one of the Shabby Genteel.

I'm a party, in fact, who has known better days,
   But their glory is faded and gone;
I have started in life in a lot of odd ways,
   But have not found the way to get on.
There are only three roads, I'm afraid, that are left:
   I shall have to beg, borrow, or steal.
Yet I don't quite encourage the notion of theft,
   Tho' I'm awfully Shabby Genteel.


I am dress'd in my best, tho' I cannot pretend
   That my costume is quite comme il faut,
You'll observe that my watch has been left with a friend,
   And my gloves are unfitted for show.
There are traces of wear on my elbows and knees,
   And my boots have run down at the heels 
But it's cruel to criticise matters like these
   When a man has grown Shabby Genteel.


Still I strive to be cheerful in all my distress, 
   And I bear my bad luck like a man,
If I can't have my way as to feeding or dress,
   I must still do the best that I can.
And remember, good people, that Fortune some day,
   By a turn of her treacherous wheel,
May reduce one of you in the very same way
   To the level of Shabby Genteel.

Written, composed and performed by Harry Clifton (1832-1872)
From Music Hall Lyrics Collection
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