6 FEBRUARY 1948, Page 16


Stit,—I see that Mr. Harold Nicolson's too kind Marginal Comment on my book has been followed by two letters written to The Spectator. I have read the latter (Lord Antrim's), but I am sorry I have missed the former (Mr. Christopher Sykes's). However, I am told that Mr. Sykes would like me to make it clear on what evidence I base the assertion that the adult Englishman is adolescent in his love affairs. I am no Don Juan. I am afraid, therefore, whatever direct and personal evidence I may submit is of little statistical value. To be more serious, I thought one of the rare observations commonly made about the English character which was hardly disputed at all by the experts was that the English are perpetual adolescents, particularly in their love affairs. Rightly or wrongly, the French think the Englishman is generally unable to over- come completely the shyness and the shamefulness of the adolescent age. My own opinion is that they are right in that view, however wrong they often are regarding their appreciation of other English traits. Incidentally, I have overlooked a rather important factor in my book: that the seclusion in which both sexes live in Britain is more marked than (I think) in most other countries—so much so as to be another English trait. Pubs are, in the main, more exclusively a man's concern than is the habit of café- going ; Oxford or Cambridge male students keep to themselves much more than their French contemporaries ; more women are seen on foot- ball grounds in France than in Britain, &c. Although much may be advanced in favour of the adverse theory, mine is supported by English books like Brideshead Revisited or films like This Happy Breed, in which regimental pals get drunk together on anniversaries, to mention only recent works. But, of course, there is much more in it than that, and, in any case, I have no business to explain the English character to the English. I merely wanted to write the reply that was expected of me.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant, JEAN QUEVAL. io Avenue Foch, Garches (S. et 0.).