Call me impertinent, put me down an ass for daring to broach the subject, but listen to me all the same. You see I had a French wife. I lived, as you know, for many years in France. I met people of all nations during my adventurous life and, in your ear, dear ladies, I made love to your adorable sex whenever and wherever any of you deigned to smile on me. So, I entreat you, to give me credit for knowing something of the subject about which I wish to speak.
How often have I heard English girls, Scottish girls--girls, in fact, of Great and Greater Brtain--laugh, none too kindly sometimes, at the peculiarities of their foreign sisters. 'French women don't wash,' or 'German women are dowdy,' or 'Italians reek of garlic' are generalities which one hears emitted on every side, mostly, I'll admit, by those whose foreign experiences are confined to Boulogne or Ostend.
Mind you, when I am on the other side of the Channel I hear the same generalities: 'English women can't cook!' or 'They have eight-seven kinds of religion and only one kind of sauce' and 'They have no idea how to wear their clothes.'
And it is against these fatuous generalizations that I would like to enter a vigorous protest. I am at one with you, m'dears, in deeming my own countrywomen the cream of the earth, but do you know why that is? Simply because I understand them better than I do the beautiful creatures of other countries. Though I have travelled far and wide I was born and bred among my own people: from childhood I have romped and played with little British girls. I know their virtues and their foibles and love them for both--so do you.
Youknow, for instance, that not the finest chef abroad can cook fish, or game, or fry bacon better than, what is sarcastically termed, 'a good plain cook' over here. You walk down any part of London--whether it be Bond Street, Kensington High Street or Kilburn or Hammersmith, and you see just as many smart young girls tripping along as you do in Paris or in Vienna. You are conscious of these things, and so when you hear of any disparaging remarks made about you by a foreigner you just shrug your pretty shoulders and say to yourself: 'How ignorant those dagoes are!'
Well, m'dears, that is where I come to the pith of my argument. The elaborate bathrooms which are to be found in your homes of to-day, the delicious baths in which you revel night and morning are, of course, delightful adjuncts to your comfort and love of luxury, and they are hygienic as well as cleanly. In provincial France or Italy such a luxury is unknown except in the homes of the wealthy. Girls like yourselves have to perform tragedies in five acts over a wash-hand basin night and morning instead of revelling in a bath perfumed with crystals. But this doesn't mean that the Victorian axiom: 'English people are clean, foreigners are dirty!' is true. Even the poorest Italian contadina in her cottage has every one of her mattresses and pillows taken to pieces and recarded every year. In every village in Italy or in France you see the men outside the meanest-looking cottage doing that work. Now, the Scotch claim to be the cleanest amongst all other British-born people, but even they would be deemed very dirty by Italian, German or French housewives for omitting this elementary dictate of cleanliness.
That, m'dears, is only one instance of how the whole question of virtue or of sin is just a matter of point of view. In a theatre or a cinema we all laugh at the antics of a man who has had too much to drink. In France or in Italy such antics would not raise a smile. They only create disgust. This was very much exemplified in our immortal Charlie's latest film 'City Lights'. English people who went to see it in Paris were delighted with the scenes were Charlie has had much too much champagne; the French audience liked the sentimental part of the film, but did not tolerate the rest.
It is all a question of the point of view, also of education; and if only you dear, lovely things would try to see your foreign sisters' point of view your men-folk, who all take their cue from you, would quickly follow suit. The universal goodwill which we all feel is the essence of our future prosperity, must begin with the little things of this world, with mutual understanding of one another's failings, the little idiosyncrasies which after all make up the characteristics of each individual nation, and which are therefore objects of keen interest and not of derision.
Why not acknowledge that though our race is, in our estimation, the chosen one of God, men of other nations have just the same love for their own land. To most Latins an Englishwoman's beauty is insipid. To most Englishmen an Italian or a Frenchwoman is not what he calls wholesome. Nature made us all different from one another, and there is a quaint proverb in Roumanian which says that: 'Mr. Frog thinks Mrs. Frog the most beautiful thing that God ever made.' And that is what you want, m'dears: a better understanding of 'Mr. Frog's' point of view. You want comradeship these days, not isolation. The world has changed since my time. The most terrible cataclysm your modern world has known has taught you one thing and did it through blood and tears: it is that human nature is at bottom the same all the world over: men and women wherever they were born have the same ideals, the same appreciation of what is good, virtuous and beautiful. It is only a slight variation of temprament that divides one neighbour from another.
It is up to you to bridge that division over.