[The “Daily News”, 2 unabashed by the exposure of the falsehood in its “Zollverein and Free Trade Loaf” poster, 3 has issued a second equally untruthful placard to the effect that the present English loaf is three times the size of the German protection loaf. The “Express” has proved this to be a falsehood. 4]


Parrot paper—you whose morals
Are upset at warlike quarrels—
You who make parades of virtue
Which we feel the better for—
Can’t you fight your battle squarely?
Must you always play unfairly
In your efforts to establish
That “Our food will cost us more”?

Is your cause so weak and broken
That no way to you is open
Save the arguments of falsehood
And the lies we all deplore?
Not by means that rouse suspicion
Will you make the nation listen
To your shrieks of “Down with Joey!
Or your food will cost you more.”

Once a poster on each hoarding
You affixed, thereby affording
Mirth to see you lie so wildly
In anxiety to score.
But when Joe had criticised you, 5
When you found all men despised you,
You removed the picture falsehood
With its “Food will cost you more.”

Never was a plainer lesson
Taught to one whose retrogression
From the paths of honest dealing
Is a fact we all deplore.
Burn, good bird, your latest theory,
For your wriggles make us weary
As you struggle to convince us
That “Our food will cost us more.”


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 and it is unlikely that it was written by Wodehouse.


See poem 23 fn 04


See poem 23 fn 02


On 11 December 1903, Sir William Harcourt made a speech at Tredegar in South Wales. The Times reported that “conspicuous objects on the platform were the German protection loaf at 1s 3d and the British free trade loaf at the same price, the latter being about as large again as the former”.

While the Express claimed to have shown that the Daily News’s posters were a falsehood, a letter to the editor of the Irish Times, published on 1 December 1903, sought to demonstrate their truth. Signing himself “Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum” (literally, No Backward Step), the writer insisted “the fact remains undisputed and indisputable that, when you take into account the wages paid, the hours of labour, and the price of wheat, the Free Trade loaf in the United Kingdom is three times larger than the Protection loaf in Germany. Here are the figures”, he declared, “taken from the famous Blue Book.” [see poem 42 fn 07] “Anyone can work them out for himself.” According to his figures, the price of a quarter (ie 28 lbs) of wheat was 28s 6d in England and 35s 6d in Germany, wages for skilled labour were 42s 0d per week in England and 24s 0d in Germany, and hours worked per week were 48 in England and 72 in Germany.

[Note: From these figures, a German worker would need to work for 106.5 hours to earn enough to pay for one quarter of wheat, while his English counterpart would only need to work for 32.6 hours, less than one-third as long. Putting the argument another way, however long a German workman had to work to be able to afford a loaf of bread, an English workman working for the same length of time would earn enough to be able to buy a loaf slightly more than three times as big. The fallacy in this argument, as the Express would no doubt have been quick to point out, is that, even taking the figures as accurate, it does not follow that the imposition of a tax on corn would have the effect of reducing the English workman’s purchasing power to anything remotely close to one-third of what it was before the tax.]


See poem 32 fn 04

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