“SURFESSOR OF EGOISM” [sic] is a delightful and informative and previously uncollected work about (and possibly by) Malfew Seklew. This article appeared in the Manchester Guardian (City Edition) Number 27,469 (September 25 1934) on page 20. Do the initials “M. S.” found at the end of the article indicate that Man Without a Soul was writing about himself? Or does the curious misspelling of “Sirfessor” indicate this article is by another?
Hyde Park, where this article “might” have taken place, is the location of Speakers’ Corner. Decades after egoist Sirfessor Seklew spoke there, so did egoist S. E. Parker. Columbus Circle is at the intersection of Broadway, 8th Avenue, Central Park South and Central Park West in New York City.
Sirfessor Seklew was not the only one to sniff at the description of sausages as “hot dogs” – this objection is also found in the heroic titular character found in Outbursts of Everett True (Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2015).
The article gives a physical description of the Sirfessor entirely complimentary to the Josh Latta cover of The Gospel According to Malfew Seklew (Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014). The Sirfessor is described as “Johnsonian,” after British essayist Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784). The content of his oration is also in harmony with the The Gospel According to Malfew Seklew, the very pamphlet the Sirfessor is soapboxing here (expanded with additional material and a new introduction in the Underworld Amusements edition.
Sirfessor Seklew (circa 1860s – 1938) drops the names of men he said he knew. Ulysses S. Grant (1822 – 1885) was General of the Union Army and the 18th President of the United States. Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) was an author. William Morris (1834 – 1896) was an artist and socialist. Charles Bradlaugh (1833 – 1891) was a Member of Parliament for Northampton and founded the National Secular Society. Robert Ingersoll (1833 – 1899) was an orator on the subject of agnosticism. These men all lived at the same time; what the Sirfessor meant by “know” (exchanged letters? close companions?) is not known; Grant and Twain lived in the State of New York when Sirfessor Seklew did; Bradlaugh and Ingersoll shared the freethought that Sirfessor Seklew did; this author concludes it is not impossible that Sirfessor Seklew was telling the gospel truth.
The New York Times (February 10 1938) reported that when a reporter called on the last residence of Sirfessor Fred M. Wilkes that he was met by “Wilkes’ Boswell” who gave his name as “Potter.” This article from the Guardian gives us the full name William Potter, and shows the two together in 1934 and 1938.
The Union of Egoists publishes original research into egoism between the years 1845 and 1945. If you would care to socialize your selfishness by purchasing some of our work or making a donation, I guarantee we will experience the highest form of psychic satisfaction.
– Trevor Blake is the author of Confessions of a Failed Egoist (Baltimore: Underworld Amusements 2014).
It might have been Hyde Park, only it happened to be Columbus Circle, beneath the lights of Broadway and an advertisement for chewing-gum. He stood alongside other lesser orators on his own little soap-box, among vendors of “hot dogs” and, hamburgers, peanuts and coca-cola, with the American flag tightly furled and poking up stiffly beside him like an umbrella in a stand. His warm, comforting accent gave him away as Yorkshire.
He was clearly a man who would stand no nonsense.
“I don’t want any half-baked organisms here,” he was expostulating. “Half-wits, go away! Anyone nasty-minded, go away! I must have the respectful silence of the people or I shall pack up my duds and walk.”
He looked down severely through his rimless spectacles, a small, stoutish man of Johnsonian aspect, with locks of grey hair sprouting beneath a black trilby and a sheaf of papers under one arm. He was trying to remember a name.
“We’ll have to let it go,” he said reluctantly to his disappointed disciples. “If you can’t think about a thing, don’t let it distress you. I don’t let anything disturb me now.”
Then, wiping his brow and tipping his trilby to a rakish angle, he drew himself up for his final peroration.
“To conclude. One law governs all fermentations and combinations. What is that law? Selfishness is the law that governs all life. Every man is composed of trillions of cells, and every cell is an egoist. There’s no such thing as society. The only thing on earth is the individual. I am not only a prophet; I am the voice of nature.”
“But I’m a part of nature, too,” interrupted a man in a straw hat, chewing a cigar and blocking everyone’s view.
“You are a depraved part of nature,” continued the orator serenely.
“Judged by whose intellect?”
“He’s knocking hell out of that guy, though ho don’t know it,” someone murmured, rejoicing at the retort. “Listen, Professor. Can you tell us how to rejuvenate our youth?” The question was put seriously.
“Surfessor,” corrected the Britisher. “Surfessor of the Society of Social Supercrats and Conscious Egoists. Everything on earth is understood if you read our pamphlets. The purpose of life and how to abolish ignorance and poverty from the face of the earth! How mind moulds matter to its own shape! And why? Because I’ve got a new definition of mind and matter.”
“I’m charging you ten cents because I want you to express your selfishness in a social way. I don’t sell the paper. I sell the brain-power there. Only for high-class organisms. There’s two wore. Will you have them or will you not!”
He offered them as if they were the Sibylline prophecies. An admirer pooled ten cents in order that a copy might be given to the unemployed.
“You have socialised your selfishness to the extent of ten cents,” commented the philosopher, unable to let slip this example of the conscious egoist. “You have experienced the highest form of psychic satisfaction. This is the demonstration of a man who can give his surplus value away.”
Then he pivoted cautiously on his soap-box, hesitating. To the old man the ground seemed far away.
“As I fall on the world, hear it shake,” he said, charging his solid little jump with significance.
“Wait to speak to me, young lady? Yes, Yorkshire. I knew everyone in Bradford worth knowing – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds – used to pitch in Victoria, Square. I was the first soap-box orator to give Nietzsche to the world. ‘Forty Years a Soap Boxer,’ title of my next book!”
“William, are you ready?”
An unobtrusive Boswell emerged, from the crowd.
“This is the famous Mr. Potter,” explained the philosopher. “You haven’t heard my seven stages of psychic progression. Well, William has reached the fifth stage.”
Ignoring, traffic signals, the philosopher stepped into Broadway and the traffic drew to a screeching, angry halt.
“The Surfessor is built like a block house,” complained William. “He refuses to be disturbed. It’s a fact. But I’m more of a nervous temperament.”
“I knew General Grant, Mark Twain, William Morris, Bradlaugh, Ingersoll,” continued the Surfessor blandly.
“And don’t forget Emma Goldman,” prompted Mr. Potter mournfully.
“I was a clerk in the sumo office as J. M. Barrie – ‘Nottingham Journal’ – when he was writing ‘When a Man’s Single.’ I once offered Bernard Shaw a job as editor of the ‘Malfew Seklew Journal,’ but since ‘Man and Superman’ he hasn’t done a thing worth a damn, not from our standpoint.”
lie shook his head as if in Shaw’s apostasy all the stupidity of mankind were symbolised.
“There’s no man that would disagree with what the Surfessor says if they understood him, but they don’t understand him,” was William’s explanatory note. “He’s never Americanised himself.”
We neared a restaurant. From the empty ocean of his pocket the Surfessor of Egoism fished out four modest nickels.
“William, go and get us some coffee,” he said with a grandiloquent gesture. “And may the blessing of Malfew Seklew, the most high-class organism that ever flew through space, rest upon your alabaster brow.”
Seeing his obvious poverty we hesitated.
“I do it just because it’s my pleasure, you know,” he said gruffly. “Just giving away surplus value.” M. S.