George Meredith, George Woodcock
Virginia Woolf said of The Egoist: 'Meredith pays us a supreme compliment to which as novel-readers we are little accustomed ... He imagines us capable of disinterested curiosity in the behaviour of our kind.' In this, the most dazzlingly intellectual of all his novels, Meredith tries to illuminate the pretensions of the most powerful class within the very citadel of security which its members have built. He develops to their logical extremity his ideas on egoism, on sentimentality and on the power of comedy. Meredith saw egoism as the great enemy of truth, feeling and progress, and comedy as the great dissolver of artifice. The Egoist is the extreme expression of his recurrent theme: the defeat of egoism by the power of comedy.