Now the Parrot, bent on stopping
His depression, went a-hopping
Where a play by Mr Barrie 1
Sets the people in a roar.
Where with grins each face relaxes;
There, he thought, that Stomach Taxes
He’d forget, and disremember
That “Your food will cost you more.”

But he found the name a dummy,
“Little Mary” was a tummy! 2
At the mention of which organ
He retreated to the door,
Where he saw a programme-seller,
And was just in time to tell her,
As he vanished from the theatre,
That “Your food will cost you more.”


J M Barrie (1860-1937) was a Scottish author and playwright. Best remembered now as the creator of “Peter Pan”, he authored many other works, many of them dealing with social issue. His play “Little Mary” received its premiere at Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 24 September 1903.


The plot of “Little Mary” revolves around the character of Moira Lorey who, in the prologue, is a 12-year-old orphan girl. Moira lives with her grandfather, an elderly Irish chemist who loves the English aristocracy and, in the belief that they unknowingly suffer from an illness, has devoted his life to writing a book setting out a cure. He gives the book to Moira, enjoining her to study it and then to take the remedy into the houses of the poor nobles. Act I opens in the home of the Countess of Plumleigh, six years later. Moira, who has acquired a considerable reputation as a quack, has been sent for by the countess, whose daughter, Milly, suffers from an ailment that doctors have failed to cure. Moira is expected to arrive with a companion, “Little Mary”, but arrives alone, and then insists that Mary is there already. She announces that she can cure Milly within one month, but the cure will affect the entire household. When the second act opens, a month later, everybody in the household is healthier and more vigorous, including Milly. Pressed to explain the secret of her cure, Moira eventually reveals that “Little Mary” is nothing more than her secret word for the stomach: her grandfather’s discovery was that the curse of the aristocracy was over-eating, which made them ill and stupid, and all she has done is to introduce a rigorous routine of fixed meal-times and persuade the family to adhere to it. Her patients are disgusted and reject her, all except one, a middle-aged man-of-the-world, who asks her to marry him and to devote her talents to caring for him.

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