When Lebaudy first saw London’s
Streets, he’d callers in abundance, 2
Men who blocked the royal staircase,
And who tapped the royal door.
But his vigilance and cunning
Were more exercised in shunning
An old Parrot, who said nothing
But “Your food will cost you more.

I have heard he found it galling,
This interminable calling. 3
(Those who listened at the keyhole
Say the harassed monarch swore);
But the visitor he hated
More especially, it’s stated,
Was undoubtedly the Parrot,
With its “Food will cost you more.

Every morn, as he was dressing,
To his ears came that depressing,
Irritating piece of nonsense
He’d so often heard before.
Every night as he got ready
For his comfortable bed, he
Was disturbed by those provoking
Words, “Your food will cost you more.

And whatever his endeavour,
Be he ne’er so shy and clever,
He will never find a refuge,
That unlucky emperor.
He may hide where’er he pleases—
Till his vessel on the seas is
He will not escape that Parrot,
With its “Food will cost you more.


This is the first poem in the series that can safely be attributed to Wodehouse on the strength of an entry in his notebook, “Money Received for Literary Work”.


Jacques Lebaudy, the self-styled “Emperor of the Sahara” (see poem 11 fn 05), began a visit to London in late September 1903. The Daily Express of 29 September reported that he had taken “a modest suite” on the 4th floor of the Savoy Hotel and that word of his arrival, to buy goods for his new empire and to select officers for his army and navy, had spread quickly:

From an early hour in the morning the Savoy Hotel clerks were besieged by an army of office-seekers and commission-agents, who were anxious to sell the Emperor anything from motor-cars to copying ink tabloids.

The Express described him as

a short, clean-shaven, slim, young gentleman with a dark cast of countenance. [. . .] The average citizen meeting M Lebaudy in the street would not take him for an Emperor. He looks more like a country librarian who has been saddened by a love affair with a music-hall programme-seller.


On 30 September, the Express reported that Lebaudy was refusing to see callers, and the following day it explained that the Franch Press was

wholly to blame for his aversion to being interviewed. They treated him and his Saharan empire with so much levity that he has vowed [. . .] not to risk the same fate at the hands of English journalists.

A further report, on 3 October, observed that his stay at the Savoy,

so far from being a British holiday, has proved little else than a term of imprisonment, with a sumptious suite of rooms for a prison.

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