MALFEW SEKLEW THE JESTER PHILOSOPHER OF EGOISM
In the days before World War 1, when open-air oratory flourished in Britain, one of its most outstanding and flamboyant exemplars was Malfew Seklew. What his real name was no-one appears to know, but this was the name which be mostly used, although he sometimes called himself F. M. Wilkesbarre, and I suspect had sundry other pseudonyms as well. In his “Memoirs of a Hyde Park Orator” (1934) Bonar Thompson wrote of him:
“He was a unique character. Tall, stout, and handsome, he carried all before him in debate… He had read a great deal and had been profoundly influenced by writers like Nietzsche and Max Stirner. Their doctrines, however, had been passed through the witty and original, mind of a man who had certain odd qualities of his own.”
Seklew described himself as “a jocular jawsmith by inclination; an uncommercial traveller by occupation; and a Napoleon of Labour by inspiration… I am an iconoclastic, atheistic, anarchistic, hedonistic individualist, with the social instinct well developed, and with syndicalistic solutions for the problem of poverty.”
During the 1890’s and early 19001s, he was very active in freethought circles in the North of England. He soapboxed in many towns, often having to fight for his freedom of speech against the stupidities of local authorities. He contributed articles to The Truthseeker, a secularist journal published in Bradford by J. W. Gott, particularly when it was edited by W. F. Barnard, a follower of Benjamin Tucker. For a time he was also assistant editor of Erwin McCall‘s The Eagle and the Serpent (1898-1902), which pioneered the egoism of Nietzsche, Stirner and James L. Walker in Britain with the blessings, among others, of George Bernard Shaw.
Seklew had an impressive mastery of the alliterative style which he used with devastating effects against his opponents whom he accused of being “passionless puritans on the prowl,” “brainless and bloodless bipeds,” “underdone underdogs from the underworld” and so forth.
Here are a few more of the sayings attributed to him:
“Society is an orgasm, not an organism.”
“Exploitation is the first law of industrial progress.”
“Idleness is the mother of invention and the father of easy times.”
“Altruistic socialism is a brain disease; democracy a delusion; and Christianity a cancer on the conscience of humanity.”
Socialists are “slave screaming for sympathy and succour.”
“Politics are piffle; the ballot a bauble; parliament a bubble; and the bible bunkum.”
He was author of a series of pamphlets called Halo’s Hoodooid, or Demi-gods, Demi-damned, which were devoted to a vituperative criticism of various labour leaders whom he regarded as “mis(s) messiahs of the masses.” Another enterprise was the launching of a “Society of Conscious Egoists and Social aristocrats.”
Towards the end of World War 1 he turned up in Chicago where he spoke at Jack Jones‘ famous Dill Pickle Club… Here, according to Edna Fine-Dexter, he called himself “Sirfessor (meaning over and above professor) ” Seklew. He had “worked out some strange theories; partly Nietzschean, and carried a large chart on which was illustrated the progress of a human being. He, meaning you and I, began by being a simpeleon, then a hopeoleon, a demoleon, and finally a superman. He never reached the heights of Sirfessordom, though. He then entered into the kingdom marked on the chart as Leisure, Pleasure, and Treasure. ”
When The Eagle and Serpent was revived in Chicago in 1927 he contributed two items which showed him still in shape. One under the name of Malfew Seklew, indicated that his sympathies for “labour” had now evaporated. The other under the name of F. M. Wilkesbarre, proclaimed that:
“A race of conscious egoists would produce the highest possible type of civilization. For conscious egoists having found themselves out from within would know how to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. Thus they would do today that very thing which would bring more profit and power tomorrow. They would be able to understand their own motives, their actions, their prejudices, passions, and desires; they would be able to audit their own agonies, analyze anger, macerate malice, minimize misery, pulverize their own prejudices, and paralyze their own paralogies. Being vivisectors of vices, virtues, vanities, vibrations, and the eternal verities selfishness, vanity, hate and love – they would understand themselves and human nature so well that, out of sheer enlightened selfishness, they would compel themselves to that which would conduce to. the greatest possible good to themselves and others of their kind.”
What happened to Seklew after this is unclear. I have been told that he finished his days on skid-row. I have also been told that he was still alive in Wales in the 1940’s. What ever his end, however, this “jester-philosopher” of egoism, who claimed that he was “a man-without a soul”, had made his own, uproarious contribution to the history of individualism.