William Ralph Inge

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There are two kinds of fools: one says, "This is old, therefore it is good"; the other says, "This is new, therefore it is better."

William Ralph Inge (6 June 186026 February 1954), popularly referred to simply as Dean Inge, was an English author, Anglican prelate, professor of divinity at Cambridge, and Dean of St Paul's Cathedral.



Christian Mysticism (1899)

  • No word in our language — not even "Socialism"— has been employed more loosely than "Mysticism." … The history of the word begins in close connexion with the Greek mysteries. A mystic is one who has been, or is being, initiated into some esoteric knowledge of Divine things, about which he must keep his mouth shut…
  • The phase of thought or feeling which we call Mysticism has its origin in that which is the raw material of all religion, and perhaps of all philosophy and art as well, namely, that dim consciousness of the beyond, which is part of our nature as human beings. Men have given different names to these "obstinate questionings of sense and outward things." We may call them, if we will, a sort of higher instinct, perhaps an anticipation of the evolutionary process; or an extension of the frontier of consciousness; or, in religious language, the voice of God speaking to us. Mysticism arises when we try to bring this higher consciousness into relation with the other contents of our minds.
    • Christian Mysticism (1899), Preface

Light, Life, and Love: Selections from the German Mystics of the Middle Ages (1904)

  • True contemplation considers Reality (or Being) in its manifestations as well as in its origin. If this is remembered, there need be no conflict between social morality and the inner life. Eckhart recognises that it is a harder and a nobler task to preserve detachment in a crowd than in a cell; the little daily sacrifices of family life are often a greater trial than selfimposed mortifications. "We need not destroy any little good in ourselves for the sake of a better, but we should strive to grasp every truth in its highest meaning, for no one good contradicts another." "Love God, and do as you like, say the Free Spirits. Yes; but as long as you like anything contrary to God's will, you do not love Him."
    There is much more of the same kind in Eckhart's sermons — as good and sensible doctrine as one could find anywhere.

St Paul (1914)

  • The old civilisation, with all the brilliant qualities which make many moderns regret its destruction, rested on too narrow a base. The woman and the slave were left out, the woman especially by the Greeks, and the slave by the Romans.
    • "St Paul". The Quarterly Review 220: 45–68. January 1914, p. 61

Outspoken Essays (1919/1922)

  • Patriotism varies, from a noble devotion to a moral lunacy.
    • "Our Present Discontents" (August 1919) in Outspoken Essays (1919), p. 2
  • It is becoming impossible for those who mix at all with their fellow-men to believe that the grace of God is distributed denominationally.
  • It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion.
    • "Patriotism" (August 1919) in Outspoken Essays (1919), pp. 42-43
  • The fruit of the tree of knowledge, always drives man from some paradise or other.
  • We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.
  • I believe that the accumulated experience of mankind, and his wonderful discoveries, are of great value. I only point out that they do not constitute real-progress in human nature itself,...
  • I have never understood why it should be considered derogatory to the Creator to suppose that he has a sense of humour.

Democracy and the future (1922)

  • So the pendulum swings, now violently, now slowly; and every institution not only carries within it the seeds of its own dissolution, but prepares the way for its most hated rival.

Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1926)

  • Looking back, I think I can separate the years when I was happy and those when I was unhappy. But perhaps at the time I should have judged differently.
    • Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1926), p210.[1][2][3]
  • On the whole, the happiest people seem to be those who have no particular cause for being happy except the fact that they are so.
    • Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1926), p211.[4][5][6]

Assessments and Anticipations (1929)

  • When our first parents were driven out of Paradise, Adam is believed to have remarked to Eve: "My dear, we live in an age of transition."
  • Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter. This is what makes the trade of historian so attractive.
    • Assessments and Anticipations, "Prognostications" (1929)

More Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1931)

  • There are two kinds of fools: one says, "This is old, therefore it is good"; the other says, "This is new, therefore it is better."
    • More Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1931), p. 200

The End of an Age: and other essays (1948)

  • A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by a common hatred of its neighbours.
    • The End of an Age: and other essays (1948), p. 127


  • Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.
    • Attributed to Inge in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), which cites the London Observer, 14 February 1932. However, this aphorism was in circulation decades earlier, e.g., it features in an advertisement in The Grape Belt, 2 October 1906, p. 5
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  1. In a 7 page essay entitled 'Happy People', dated 1921, which includes many general observations on happiness and its value.
  2. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hpw8KEtO7NkC&dq=inauthor%3A%22William+Ralph+Inge%22&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=particular.
  3. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.209347
  4. In a 7 page essay entitled 'Happy People', dated 1921, which includes many general observations on happiness and its value. This particular observation occurs with no source or development.
  5. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hpw8KEtO7NkC&dq=inauthor%3A%22William+Ralph+Inge%22&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=particular.
  6. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.209347