Fellow of Merton College

It is meet and right that pride and humility should be the two human characteristics on which University sermons have to be preached. Left to myself, although I might have picked on my modesty as something I should share with you, I should have given the preeminence to other among my sins than pride. My greed, my sloth, my avarice or, in this salacious age my lust, are subjects on which I could tell you much that might interest you. Pride lacks immediate appeal. We are not sure what it is, or whether it is a bad thing, when we think of it in purely individual terms. But when we consider it collectively, we can see that it is, together with humility, something Oxford is peculiarly well qualified to preach on. We all of us are proud of our university. We were proud, and our schoolmasters were proud, when we first got our places here. We are, dons and undergraduates alike, proud of our colleges, each grateful that good fortune has brought him to the best college in Oxford, and anxious that everyone else should secretly acknowledge it to be the best. Our parents were proud when we took our degrees, and although we profess to be unconcerned with classes, we are deeply content to record our firsts when occasion requires us to do so, or have our contemporaries allude to them as opportunity offers. We are studious, as dons, not to pull rank, safe in the knowledge that others will do it for us, and that we shall receive the deference due to a fellow of an Oxford college. In an age that is egalitarian in theory but elitist at heart, Oxford men have benefited greatly, as other forms of social eminence have been eroded, leaving a clear field for our own claims to public esteem, which are, if not entirely unchallenged, still generally allowed. Oxford is, as we like to be told by outsiders, a centre of excellence, and a lot of the resplendence rubs off on us, not altogether undeservedly. It is, as we corporately admit on Commemoration Sunday, largely due to our having entered into other men's labours..
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