William Ralph Inge
6 June 1860
|Died||26 February 1954|
|Alma mater||King's College, Cambridge|
Mary Catharine Inge
(m. 1904; died 1949)
|Church||Church of England|
|Title||Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral|
William Ralph Inge (; (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 nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times.
He was born on 6 June 1860 in 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 won the Newcastle Scholarship in 1879, 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. 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.
In 1907, he moved to Jesus College, Cambridge, on being appointed Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity. Then, in 1911, Prime Minister H. H. 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. 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. 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 an 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.
Many of Inge's views were unusual at the time. He disapproved of democracy, which he called "an absurdity" and compared it to "the famous occasion when the voice of the people cried, Crucify Him!" He was also known for his support for nudism: Inge supported the publishing of Maurice Parmelee's book, The New Gymnosophy: Nudity and the Modern Life. Inge was also critical of town councillors who were insisting that bathers wear full bathing costumes.
Inge's wife, Mary Catharine, was the daughter of Henry Maxwell Spooner. She died in 1949. 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, where he died on 26 February 1954, aged 93.
Inge was a prolific author. In addition to scores of articles, lectures and sermons, he also wrote over 35 books. He is best known for his works on Plotinus and neoplatonic philosophy, and on Christian mysticism. He was a strong proponent of the spiritual type of religion--"that autonomous faith which rests upon experience and individual inspiration"--as opposed to one of coercive authority. He was therefore 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 in common with one of his favourite writers, Benjamin Whichcote, the first of the Cambridge Platonists. 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.
|Church of England titles|
| Dean of St Paul's
| Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity
1907 - c. 1911
|Non-profit organization positions|
| President of the Aristotelian Society
F. C. S. Schiller
| President of the Modern Churchmen's Union
|Awards and achievements|
Frederick H. Gillett
| Cover of Time magazine
24 November 1924