The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1931
The Egoist at the Afternoon Tea Table
The Egoist at the Afternoon Tea Table
It is with no diffidence whatever that I approach this subject. Et ego in Aracadia vivo, the past master pluperfect, the pattern and archetype of an egoist.
But I am always astonished to observe by what different routes the University Arcadians have reached the hilltop from which they consider life, bland and unaffected, impervious to the conflicting thoughts and actions of other mortals. Even more astonishing is the direction faced from that same hilltop by the lesser egoists (a term exclusive only of myself and one other). These incomplete artists still feel the pull of the world. They still face the direction whence they came. To those who tread the road they also have travelled, they declaim that the Arcadia of Individualism is the one and only true goal of life's journey.
Mr. Scotter, egoist of the apostolic tradition, shouts his advice down the vale of religion. He pleads that Self is all-important, that he also has trodden the straight and narrow way, the one and only way, and that the logical and ultimate consummation of true spiritual development is individual interpretation of revelation. Or words to that effect. What he gains as a Puritan he loses as an Arcadian. He is too purposeful; not a true egoist.
Dr. Henning, egoist of the Socratic method, although he has skipped lightly up the steep scarp by means of the graded and macadamised read of unbelief, has the same evangelical bias that disqualifies him from perfection. He is possessed of a passion for truth. Not only is he interested in enjoying the world; he wants to reform the world. Thus does he miss excellence.
Mr. Colin Bailey is a rare and exquisite specimen of the egoist of ennui. Nothing enthuses him, which is the hall-mark of an egoist; but then everything bores him, even himself, which is fed blasphemy in Arcadia.
Mr. C. G. Watson is an egoist faut de mieux, an imitation Arcadian. I strongly suspect that he keeps us company on our hilltop merely because he likes the company. Him I mistrust; tempted by the scent of danger or the lure of strong fellowship, he might at to-morrow's dawn join the forming ranks of some crusade or other.
If Mr. Watson fails in permanence, other names occur whose egoism is occasional only, dependent for its appearance on some other factor. It is egoism and oratory with Mr. W. J. Mountjoy, Jr., despite his Greek ideal; egoism and Erin with Mr. Reardon; egoism and inspiration with Miss Peggy McDonald; egoism and Chairman's authority with Mr. Bannister; egoism and an audience with Miss Aileen Davidson. These develop their full charm under given conditions only. They are occasional egoists, amateurs, dabblers in a difficult and intricate art.
Nor dare I include those strong, purposeful souls who have a Mission in life. Mr. Riske and the Soviet; Miss Dorothy Martyn Roberts and the College of Electors; Mr. Benjamin, the research student of anecdote; Miss Peggy Spence-Sales, who has dedicated her life to mankind; Mr. Don Priestley, who has dedicated his life otherwise; Miss Joan Ostler, who rolls a conversational stone of Sisyphus at Latin lectures. These people belong to the world. The egoist is his own world.
Let me place on emphatic record that Mr. Stewart (the debating Mr. Stewart), although bearing a certain superficial resemblance to those of our honourable company, is merely the proverbial wearer of the lion's skin. It is of no importance that he has read all of Shakespeare and has studied Jurisprudence, Constitutional History and Logic. He is too eager to justify himself. The true egoist is his own justification.
That brings me to my shining example. Known as Hypatia to the Alexandrians, to us she is Miss Dorothy Spence-Sales. She discourses on all subjects; she has opinions about everything; she feels bound to no codes, no philosophies, no conventions, not even those she expounds. What her intellect advocates, her mood accepts or rejects at pleasure. She is a radical conservative, a conventional rebel. She glimpses the truth through the seven-fold veils, but feels bound by no urge to depart from a comfortable, conventional way. She alone is free from the fatal blemish of the apostle. I salute thee, Hypatia!
Lest this brief survey of the Self-Chosen may seem as an invitation to the common rabble, let me sound a clarion note of warning. Individualism can rise as high as the individual, but no higher. Love of life for the sake of things-as-they-are prepares a magic couch and a divine banquet, but Egoism is only the chef, not the purveyor. Even Arcadians must furnish their own food And sometimes they must go hungry.