Where our leader held his meeting
Welcomed by such hearty greeting
As displayed the trust in “Joey”
That the northern workmen bore, 2
Sat the bird, and not a whisper
From that Preference resister
Could I hear, nor faint suggestion
That “Your food will cost you more.

“Can’t you face this joyous cheering,”
So I cried, “and are you fearing
That the ‘stomach tax’ is falsehood
And the Cobden Club a bore?
Do you hear in this a token
That your cause is burst and broken,
That the nation will not listen
To your “Food will cost you more”?

But the bird so dull and foolish
Glared at me with aspect mulish,
While a boast of “No surrender”
Was the look his features wore.
Figures ceased to stop or stay him,
Arguments could not dismay him,
And once more he squawked his motto,
That “Your food will cost you more.3


In McIlvaine’s P G Wodehouse: A Comprehensive Bibliography and Checklist, this poem is attributed to Wodehouse on the strength of an entry in the “PGW Account Book”. In fact, there is no such entry for this date.


“Our leader” refers to Joseph (“Joey”) Chamberlain, who had delivered a speeched to a packed meeting in the Olympia, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the evening before.


Two features of this poem are worth noting. First, unlike all those preceding it that referred to specific speeches (see poems 04, 08, 10, 11, 14 and 16), this one contains nothing relating to the content of the speech, only to the welcome that greeted Chamberlain and to his opening remarks. Second, unlike those previous poems, which appeared at least a day after the report of the speech, this one was published on the same day as the report of the speech.

From this, three conclusions may perhaps be drawn. First, and most obviously, the poem’s author did not have the opportunity to read an account of the speech in the following day’s newspapers, as would have been possible on previous occasions. From that it follows that the poet was able either to listen to at least the first part of the speech (which was transmitted to London via the “electrophone”) or to see the report of the speech as it was being prepared. And both alternatives imply a third conclusion, that the author was more likely to be a staff writer for the Daily Express than a freelance contributor such as Wodehouse.

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