Daily Express, Thursday, November 11, 1903

Poem 37

(By P. G. Wodehouse)



  [Lord Rosebery stated at Leicester that the price of groceries had enormously increased. 1 This has been proved to be entirely false. 2]

I remarked an emendation
In the Durdans bird’s oration, 3
Which, though weary of his usual
Tag, I could not but deplore.
While at Leicester I was waiting
He astonished me by stating
Not that eating would be dearer,
But that “food was costing more.”

“Bless my soul!” he squawked, quite frantic,
“Our expenses are gigantic:
None but Goulds and Pierpont Morgans 4
Now may pass the grocer’s door.
Why, I scarcely like to utter
The existing price of butter.
Mark my words, my wretched hearers,
All our food is costing more.”

“Bird,” said I, “on jams and candles
You are perpetrating scandals,
For these things are not a penny
More expensive than before.
Being just as cheap as ever,
Though you think you’re very clever,
You have scarcely got the wit to
Prove that food is costing more.

“Play the game, my worthy Polly,
If it’s nothing worse, it’s folly
To descend to tarradiddles 5
When a point you wish to score.
Truth you cannot crush a wee bit,
‘Magna est et praevalebit.’ ” 6
“Well, at any rate,” he mumbled,
“Food is going to cost you more!”



In his speech at Leicester (see poem 36), Lord Rosebery quoted from a letter that had been printed in the Times on 27 October and in which the writer claimed that the prices of all the goods in her local shops were going up.


The Daily Express, in its issue of 10 November, refuted the letter’s claims.


See poem 14, note 3


The Goulds were American businessmen Jason “Jay” Gould (1836–92) and his son George Jay Gould. Jay Gould was a railroad entrepreneur who accumulated a fortune which ranks him among the wealthiest Americans in history. His son, who was also a railroad executive, inherited the bulk of the family fortune, but lost a substantial part of it during the US banking crisis of October 1907.

John Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) was the leading American banker and financier of his day. Like Gould, with whom he competed, Morgan made a fortune from railroads. He was also closely involved with Andrew Carnegie in the establishment of the United States Steel Corporation (the “Steel Trust”) and played a pivotal role in calming the panic created by the banking crisis of 1907.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines a tarradiddle (also taradiddle) as “a trifling falsehood, a petty lie; a colloquial euphemism for a lie”. The origin of the word, which dates from the late 18th century, is obscure.


Latin: Truth is mighty, and will prevail. The source is a verse from the Latin Vulgate Bible (3 Esdras iv:41), where it appears in a slightly different form: Et desiit loquendo: Et omnes populi clamaverunt, et dixerunt: Magna est veritas, et prævalet—And he ceased speaking: And all the people cried out, and said: Great is the truth, and it prevails.