As I Please
Tribune, 26 May 1944
I was talking
the other day to a young American soldier, who told me as quite a number of others
have done that anti-British feeling is completely general in the American army. He
had only recently landed in this country, and as he came off the boat he asked the
Military Policeman on the dock, Hows England?
The girls here walk out with niggers, answered the
M.P. They call them American Indians.
That was the salient fact about England, from the M.P.s
point of view. At the same time my friend told me that anti-British feeling is not violent
and there is no very clearly-defined cause of complaint. A good deal of it is probably a
rationalization of the discomfort most people feel at being away from home. But the whole
subject of anti-British feeling in the United States badly needs investigation. Like
antisemitism, it is given a whole series of contradictory explanations, and again like
antisemitism, it is probably a psychological substitute for something else. What
else is the question that needs investigating.
Meanwhile, there is one department of Anglo-American relations
that seems to be going well. It was announced some months ago that no less than 20,000
English girls had already married American soldiers and sailors, and the number will have
increased since. Some of these girls are being educated for their life in a new country at
the Schools for Brides of U.S. Servicemen organized by the American Red Cross.
Here they are taught practical details about American manners, customs and traditions
and also, perhaps, cured of the widespread illusion that every American owns a
motor car and every American house contains a bathroom, a refrigerator and an electric
The May number of the Matrimonial Post and Fashionable Marriage
Advertiser contains advertisements from 191 men seeking brides and over 200 women
seeking husbands. Advertisements of this type have been running in a whole series of
magazines since the sixties or earlier, and they are nearly always very much alike. For
Bachelor, age 25, height 6 ft 1 in., slim, fond of horticulture,
animals, children, cinema, etc., would like to meet lady, age 27 to 35, with love of
flowers, nature, children, must be tall, medium build, Church of England.
The general run of them are just like that, though occasionally a more
unusual note is struck. For instance:
Im 29, single, 5 ft 10 in., English, large build, kind, quiet,
varied intellectual interests, firm moral background (registered unconditionally as
absolute CO), progressive, creative, literary inclinations. A dealer in rare stamps,
income variable but quite adequate. Strong swimmer, cyclist, slight stammer occasionally.
Looking for the following rarity, amiable, adaptable, educated girl, easy on eye and ear,
under 30, secretary type or similar, mentally adventurous, immune to mercenary and social
incentives, bright sense of genuine humour, a reliable working partner. Capital
unimportant, character vital.
The thing that is and always has been striking in these advertisements
is that nearly all the applicants are remarkably eligible. It is not only that most of
them are broad-minded, intelligent, home-loving, musical, loyal, sincere and affectionate,
with a keen sense of humour and, in the case of women, a good figure: in the majority of
cases they are financially OK as well. When you consider how fatally easy it is to get
married, you would not imagine that a 36-year-old bachelor, dark hair, fair
complexion, slim build, height 6 ft, well educated and of considerate, jolly and
intelligent disposition, income £1,000 per annum and capital, would need to find
himself a bride through the columns of a newspaper. And ditto with Adventurous young
woman, left-wing opinions, modern outlook with fairly full but shapely figure,
medium colour curly hair, grey-blue eyes, fair skin, natural colouring, health
exceptionally good, interested in music, art, literature, cinema, theatre, fond of
walking, cycling, tennis, skating and rowing. Why does such a paragon have to
It should be noted that the Matrimonial Post is entirely
above-board and checks up carefully on its advertisers.
What these things really demonstrate is the atrocious loneliness
of people living in big towns. People meet for work and then scatter to widely separated
homes. Anywhere in inner London it is probably exceptional to know even the names of the
people who live next door.
Years ago I lodged for a while in the Portobello Road. This is
hardly a fashionable quarter, but the landlady had been ladys maid to some woman of
title and had a good opinion of herself. One day something went wrong with the front door
and my landlady, her husband and myself were all locked out of the house. It was evident
that we should have to get in by an upper window, and as there was a jobbing builder next
door I suggested borrowing a ladder from him. My landlady looked somewhat uncomfortable.
I wouldnt like to do that, she said finally.
You see we dont know him. Weve been here fourteen years, and weve
always taken care not to know the people on either side of us. It wouldnt do,
not in a neighbourhood like this. If you once begin talking to them they get familiar, you
So we had to borrow a ladder from a relative of her
husbands, and carry it nearly a mile with great labour and discomfort.