30 DECEMBER 1995, Page 23

The ascent of man

Sir: Miss von Bnlow (In defence of the American woman', 9 December) should not despair entirely. There remain a few of us American men who, despite having learned to change nappies and bath children, con- tinue to consider ourselves part of the Gary Cooper/Wiliam Holden/Jimmy Stewart tra- dition Miss von Billow believes extinct.

America having recently become a much less safe place for gentlemen, we are not so easily identifiable today as we were 30 years ago. Accordingly, some hints for Miss von Billow lest she fail to recognise the type: 1. Despite the rest of the world having appar- ently abandoned any pretence of noblesse, we are still madly keen on chivalry in all its forms; 2. Given its admissions department's emphasis on 'diversity' in recent years, Yale may not be our alma mater; 3. We tend to apologise (as if for the behaviour of an unruly child) when confronted by embar- rassing examples of Americana (e.g., tourists, the Clinton administration, Bay- watch); 4. Sadly, we have largely forsaken our forefathers' tradition of public service in the State Department, the CIA, the US Army and the Episcopal Church (with evi- dent consequences to the standing and competence of those institutions), and now tend to be found in law firms and investment banks; and in this post-Barbar- ians era there are perhaps as many of us expatriated to the City as remain on Wall Street.

Political correctness and militant femi- nism may have driven us to ground in the late 1980s, but they have not led to our extinction. Indeed, far from being the con- fused, disoriented and pathetic specimens of Miss von Billow's imagination, I suspect We are tougher and more confident than ever, only much lower-profile.

Peter S. O'Driscoll

28 Rumbold Road, London SW6