[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. The author of the letter, Ellen Tighe Hopkins, of Herne Bay, wrote:

Whilst giving my usual household orders to-day at our local shops I was struck by the dismay on the faces of the working women who also were laying in their little supplies. “Another ha’penny please, missis, sugar’s gone hup”, said the shopman, “oil’s gone up, candles are gone up; butter’s hup tuppence and jam a penny; bread’ll go dreely.” “What’s that for?” asked a delicate-looking woman with four children standing about her. “It’s Mr Chamberlain”, replied the man, laughing, “we can’t help it—we small traders—we must take time by the forelock, they says; everything’s agoin’ hup.” “My man’s wage is more like to go down”, replied the woman with a patient sigh.

Except that he substituted “directly” for the shopman’s “dreely”, Rosebery quoted the letter accurately.


Under the heading “What’s Up”, the Daily Express of 10 November refuted Mrs Hopkins’s claims:

An “Express” representative yesterday visited several small dealers in various neighbourhoods to learn the truth of the case, with the result that it may be definitely stated that no such general rise in prices has taken place. Sugar was found to be no dearer now than it was six months ago. [. . .] The case with butter is just the same, although, as happens every year at about this time, the producers’ prices have advanced slightly. [. . .] “Oil and candles”, said an oilman, “are always fluctuating [. . .] Oil has been at its present price for some time past, and although we are paying just a fraction more at present for candles, the consumer is not feeling it in the slightest.” [. . .] A grocer when interviewed expressed his indignation that anyone should have put the present rise in the price of jam down to the fiscal campaign. “After all that has been made public of the disastrous failure of our fruit crop [. . .] the man who would blame Mr Chamberlain for the natural rise in the price of jam must either be a hopeless idiot or a wilful perverter of the truth.”


See poem 14 fn 03


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.

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