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September 10, 2003

THE GLOOMY DEAN

One of my minor heroes is Dean W. R. Inge (rhymes with sing, not singe), clergyman, theologian, classical scholar, eugenist, and controversialist. At the height of his fame, in the 1920s and 30s, Inge was known as the Gloomy Dean, for his belief that civilisation, on the whole, was going to the dogs.

Inge deserves recognition by GNXPers, if only for having coined the term dysgenic to describe a trend towards genetic decline in a population, complaining that ‘our present social order skims off the cream in each generation and throws it away’.

He also had a neat turn of phrase. Some typical Ingeisms...

.........a pessimist is a man who of two evils prefers both

.........individuals are occasionally guided by reason, crowds never

.........a nation is a society united by a common delusion about its ancestry and a common hatred of its neighbours

.........the corruption of democracies proceeds directly from the fact that one class imposes the taxes and another class pays them

.........in imperialism, nothing fails like success.

Inge was also one of the first to identify the phenomenon of anti-patriotism,
which is familiar now in both the UK and the US:

.......every enemy of England, white, black, yellow or brown, has his
champion among us, and the admirers of the Mahdi and the Mullah, of
the Boxer and the Boer, of Gandhi and Lenin, are found to be the
same people. The English differ, it seems, from other misguided
persons in never being in the right, even by accident.

But all this is really just a pretext to mention that Inge’s great-granddaughter,
Olivia Inge, a pale, auburn-haired beauty, is a hot fashion model. See her portfolio here. Olivia can also claim descent from Prime Minister William Gladstone, and, through Dean Inge’s American wife, from Pocahontas.

I don’t think this proves anything about heredity, but who needs an excuse to
admire beautiful girls?

DAVID BURBRIDGE

Posted by David B at 11:23 AM




Are there some "best of" articles/chapters/book that Inge wrote (the scholar, not the model). I am not familiar with him or his work.

Posted by: Alex B. at September 11, 2003 08:02 PM


Most of Inge's more popular/controversial works were originally published as newspaper or magazine articles, and then collected from time to time in books like 'Outspoken Essays', and 'Our Present Discontents'. I doubt that there is any collection of 'The Best of Inge'!

He also wrote more serious scholarly stuff like a 2-volume study of Plotinus.

Posted by: David B at September 12, 2003 04:17 AM