I have met quite a few famous and eminent people, and my impression of many - indeed most - is of people buoyed-up with conceit - cheerfully and aggressively bobbing-about on the surface of the world; unsinkable; self-righting; indifferent to the vicissitudes of wind and weather - if pressed down, only to pop-up again somewhere else wearing the same fixed grin or grimace.
It is, perhaps, not exactly pride that they exude; but something lesser: an air of being enormously pleased and excited by themselves - of life as a series of opportunities for showing-off to themselves.
This is a disconcerting recognition when I have, for example, admired a book by that person - have perhaps even sought-out the meeting.
Disconcerting, and indeed dismaying; since there is not only an absence of human contact or of engagement but - apparently - no possibility of it.
Which is real-est, the book or the person? Going back to the book holding the key of the personality can also be a dismaying experience- because it often seems clear that the book was primarily motivated by the same conceit, and that I had been fooled into reading-into it, something what was not really there.
Perhaps I am sensitized to this matter - to the possibility that someone may have self-conceit as their modus operandi, dominating over decades, presumably unto death - since I have myself experienced it for short periods: a heady delight at my own wonderfulness such that little else seems to matter but that the rest of the world be allowed to share in it.
At any rate, my impression formed over many years is that the Western intellectual elite - up to the most elevated level - consists mostly of people of this general type: irrepressible, smug, and fiendishly energetic.