Daily Express, Monday, October 26, 1903

Poem 23

(Attribution uncertain)



  [Sir Guilford Molesworth, 1 having carefully measured the “Daily News” loaves as represented on their posters, finds that the relative quantity of bread in the two loaves would be about 1.00 to 7.00, whereas the true proportion would be 1.00 to 1.04 if Mr. Chamberlain’s tax of 2s. a quarter were imposed. 2]

I observed the Parrot sitting,
With his goggles and his knitting,
In the little street of Bouverie; 3
On his cap D.-N. he wore,
And the letters I have quoted
No improper word denoted,
But the “Daily News,” a paper 4
Squawking “Food will cost you more.”

“Sir,” said I, in some confusion,
“If I’m right in my conclusion
That the bird I see before me
Is the worthy editor, 5
Tell me why upon each hoarding
You have stuck a lie (according
To Sir Guilford) which informs us
Food will cost you seven times more’?

“Though I do not wish to quarrel,
Yet a paper highly moral, 6
That considers news of betting
It were better to ignore,
And of virtue is a boaster,
Might have found a truthful poster
To impress its own conviction
That ‘Your food will cost you more.’

“Pray,” said I, in courtly diction, 7
“Give us fact and cease your fiction;
Screech for ‘C.-B.,’ squawk for Winston,
Ask from Asquith an encore. 8
Play your game, but cease to stick your
Party falsehood in a picture!”
Yet the pious bird for answer
Murmured “Food will cost you more.”



Sir Guilford Molesworth (1828–1925) was a prominent engineer, the author of a standard reference guide for practising engineers. Between 1871 and 1889, he was technical adviser on railways to the Indian Government, for which work he was knighted in 1888. In 1904 he was elected president of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Molesworth took a keen interest in economic matters and was well-known as a writer on subjects such as the decimal system, taxation and bimetallism. He was a severe critic of the arguments used by the Free Traders.


In October 1903, the Daily News (see below) distributed posters that purported to show the relative sizes of two loaves selling for the same price, the larger being a loaf made from wheat imported free of duty and the other, very much smaller in the posters, being a loaf made from wheat on which a tariff had been imposed. On 23 October 1903, it was reported that Molesworth had prepared diagrams to prove the inaccuracy of these posters.


Bouverie Street, which runs south from Fleet Street, in the City of London, was home to a number of publishing ventures, including the Daily News and Punch magazine.


The Daily News was a radical newspaper, founded in 1846. Its first editor, from January to March 1846, was Charles Dickens. Under Edward Tyas Cook (1857–1919), its editor from 1896, the paper supported Lord Rosebery’s imperialist faction of the Liberal Party, but in 1901 the paper was aquired by George Cadbury, a Quaker industrialist who supported the anti-imperialist faction in the Liberal party and was opposed to the Boer War. Cook’s views were directly opposed to those of his new proprietor and he resigned as editor and joined the News Chronicle; R. C. Lehmann took over as editor of the News which, under Cadbury’s ownership, became one of the main opponents of the Boer War and one of the principal supporters of free trade.


The then editor of the Daily News was Alfred George Gardiner (1865–1946), who had been appointed as editor in February 1902, replacing R. C. Lehman. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Gardiner was a temperance reformer and disliked vulgarity. He was a passionate ‘Little Englander’, who despised imperialism both on moral grounds and because he thought it distracted the Liberal party from pursuing domestic social reform.


While the Daily News’s high moral tone was probably set by its editor, it cannot have been displeasing to its owner, George Cadbury, who was a Quaker.


See poem 14, note 5.


“C.-B.” is Henry Campbell-Bannerman, “Winston” is Winston Churchill, and “Asquith” is H. H. Asquith: the first and last were Liberal politicians, Churchill was to join the Liberals within a year; all three were vocal critics of Chamberlain’s proposals.