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William R. Inge

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William R. Inge

William Ralph Inge KCVO
Born 6 June 1860
Crayke, Yorkshire, England
Died 26 February 1954
Wallingford, England
Education Eton College and King's College, Cambridge
Spouse(s) Mary Catharine Inge
Children Paula Inge
Church Church of England
Writings over 35 books
Title Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral

William Ralph Inge KCVO (/ˈɪŋ/;[1] 6 June 1860 – 26 February 1954) was an English author, Anglican priest, professor of divinity at Cambridge, and Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, which provided the appellation by which he was widely known, "Dean Inge."


He was born at Crayke, Yorkshire. His father was William Inge, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, and his mother Susanna Churton, daughter of Edward Churton, Archdeacon of Cleveland. Inge was educated at Eton College, where he was a King's Scholar and a Newcastle Scholar, and at King's College, Cambridge, where he won a number of prizes, as well as taking firsts in both parts of the Classical Tripos.[2] He was a tutor at Hertford College, Oxford starting in 1888, the year he was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England. His only parochial position was as Vicar of All Saints, Knightsbridge, London, from 1905 to 1907.[2]

In 1907, he moved to Jesus College, Cambridge, on being appointed Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity. Then, in 1911, Prime Minister Asquith chose him to be the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He served as President of the Aristotelian Society at Cambridge from 1920 to 1921. Inge then became a columnist for the Evening Standard, a position he would hold until 1946 — a period of 25 years. Inge was also a trustee of London's National Portrait Gallery from 1921 until 1951. He had retired from full-time Church ministry in 1934.

He was made a Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO) in 1918 and promoted to Knight Commander (KCVO) in 1930.[2] He received Honorary Doctorates of Divinity from both Oxford and Aberdeen Universities, Honorary Doctorates of Literature from both Durham and Sheffield, and Honorary Doctorates of Laws from both Edinburgh and St. Andrews. He was also a Honorary fellow of both King's and Jesus Colleges at Cambridge, and of Hertford College at Oxford. In 1921, he was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy.


Inge's wife, Mary Catharine, was the daughter of Henry Maxwell Spooner. She died in 1949.[3] His daughter, Paula, developed type 1 diabetes before insulin was widely available in the UK and died aged 14. Inge spent his later life in Brightwell near Wallingford, where he died on 26 February 1954, aged ninety-three.


Inge was a prolific author. In addition to scores of articles, lectures and sermons, he also wrote over 35 books.[4] He is best known for his works on Plotinus and neoplatonic philosophy, and on Christian mysticism. He was a strong proponent of a spiritual type of religion—"that autonomous faith which rests upon experience and individual inspiration"—as opposed to one of coercive authority; he was outspoken in his criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church. His thought, on the whole, represents a blending of traditional Christian theology with elements of Platonic philosophy. He shares this much with one of his favourite writers, Benjamin Whichcote, the first of the Cambridge Platonists. In addition to this he was also a eugenicist and wrote considerably on the subject. In his book Outspoken Essays he devotes an entire chapter to this subject.

He was nicknamed The Gloomy Dean because of his pessimistic views in his Romanes Lecture of 1920, "The Idea of Progress" and in his Evening Standard articles and he is remembered as a supporter of animal rights.


The following bibliography is a selection taken mainly from Adam Fox's biography Dean Inge and his biographical sketch in Crockford's Clerical Directory.

  • 1888
  • Eton Latin Grammar 1888
  • Bampton Lectures) 1899
  • 1900
  • Essays in Constructive Theology by Six Oxford Tutors (two essays) 1902
  • 1904
  • CCEL
  • 1905
  • 1906
  • (Paddock Lectures) 1906
  • All Saints' Sermons 1907
  • ) 1909
  • Speculum Animae 1911
  • 1912
  • 1914
  • 1915
  • (1918)
  • The Philosophy of Plotinus (ISBN 0-8371-0113-1 (hardcover)
  • 1922
  • Romanes Lecture) 1920
  • 1922
  • 1924
  • 1926
  • The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought Hulsean Lectures 1926 ISBN 0-8414-5055-2
  • The Church in the World 1927
  • Assessments and Anticipations 1929
  • 1930
  • More Lay Thoughts of a Dean 1931
  • Things New and Old 1933
  • 1933
  • The Gate of Life 1935
  • Our Present Discontents 1938 ISBN 0-8369-2846-6
  • A Pacifist in Trouble 1939 ISBN 0-8369-2192-5
  • The Fall of the Idols 1940
  • Talks in a Free Country 1942 ISBN 0-8369-2774-5
  • ISBN 0-8371-8953-5
  • 1948
  • Diary of a Dean 1949
  • W R Matthews 1958


Further Reading

  • Adam Fox Dean Inge, (London: John Murray, 1960)
  • Robert Helm The Gloomy Dean.
  • WR Inge, Diary of a Dean: St Paul's, 1911-1934, (London: Hutchinson, 1949)

See also

Anglicanism portal

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