If You Marry the Spirit of Your Own Generation You Will Be a Widow in the Next

William Ralph Inge? Fulton J. Sheen? Leonard Cohen? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? E. Luccock? Joseph R. Sizoo?

Dear Quote Investigator: Any organization that aspires to multi-generational longevity must not become enmeshed in evanescent enthusiasms and fashions. Long-term steadiness and perspective are required. Here are two pertinent sayings:

  1. If you marry the spirit of your age, you will be a widow in the next.
  2. If you marry the spirit of your generation, you will be a widower in the next.

This notion has been credited to two prominent religious figures: William Ralph Inge who was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and U.S. Catholic Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who was a popular broadcaster. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge known as Dean Inge or “The Gloomy Dean” delivered a series of lectures at Sion College in 1911 titled “Co-operation of the Church with the Spirit of the Age”. He cautioned that the church must not be caught up in transient worldly affairs: 1

. . . the Church must not be identified with any particular institution or denomination, or any tendencies which seemed to be dominant in our generation. The Church was a Divine idea which required tens of thousands of years to reach its full development. They must not secularise its message and endeavour to reach men’s souls through their stomachs.

For several decades Dean Inge kept a diary, and in 1911 he wrote a contemporaneous entry about the lecture series. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

I was moved to tell them that there are many spirits of the age, most of them evil; that we were not agreed what the Church means; and that it is not certain that religious bodies ought to co-operate with secular movements at all. Also, if you marry the Spirit of your own generation you will be a widow in the next.

This diary entry serves as evidence that Inge originated the saying under analysis; however, the entry only appeared publicly many years after its 1911 composition in the 1949 book “The Diary of a Dean”. The text above is from “The Manchester Guardian” which printed extracts from the book shortly before its publication.

Inge’s lecture series was discussed and quoted in 1911, but QI has not yet found a close match for the saying in periodicals of that period.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Marry the Spirit of Your Own Generation You Will Be a Widow in the Next

Notes:

  1. 1911 December 14, The Wells Journal, Christian Ministers and Politics, Quote Page 6, Column 2, County: Somerset, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  2. 1949 December 3, The Manchester Guardian, The Diary of a Dean by the Very Rev. W. R. Inge, (Extracts from “The Diary of a Dean” which is to be published by Messrs. Hutchinson on December 8, 1949), Date of entry: November 10, 1911, Quote Page 6, Column 6 and 7, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

The Command ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ Was Promulgated When the Population of the World Consisted of Two Persons

William Ralph Inge? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The number of people on planet Earth has grown to the remarkably large figure of 7.5 billion. A passage in the Book of Genesis of the King James Bible encourages fertility:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Yet, the world is quite different today. I vaguely recall a quotation accentuating that difference by mentioning the initial biblical population figure. Would you please help me to find that quotation?

Quote Investigator: In 1931 William Ralph Inge who was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London published “More Lay Thoughts of a Dean”. The book contained a reprint of a newspaper essay titled “Should We Limit Our Population?” which included the following: 1

The command “Be fruitful and multiply”—promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two persons—must be obeyed now that it contains 1,800 millions, even if the result is that from time to time “millions die of starvation, in extremest agony.”

Encouraging fertility makes sense when a group is small, but Inge believed that the population of 1.8 billion in the 1920s indicated that the situation of humanity had changed dramatically. Humans had wildly succeeded in multiplying, and Inge believed it was desirable to make an effort to control population growth in Britain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Command ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ Was Promulgated When the Population of the World Consisted of Two Persons

Notes:

  1. 1931, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean by William Ralph Inge, Section: Right or Wrong: Some Vexed Questions, Chapter 6: Should We Limit Our Population, Quote Page 48, Putnam, London and New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Events in the Past May Be Roughly Divided Into Those Which Probably Never Happened and Those Which Do Not Matter

William Ralph Inge? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once heard the humorous claim that recorded history may be divided into two parts:

  • Events that probably never happened.
  • Events that do not matter.

Would you please explore the provenance of this observation?

Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and a professor of divinity at Cambridge. Dean Inge, as he was commonly known, was a prolific author and newspaper columnist. In 1925 “The Advertiser” of Adelaide, Australia published a piece “On Utopians” that acknowledged Inge and included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The things that we know about the past may be divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not much matter. As Samuel Butler says, historians have the power, which is not claimed by the Deity, of altering the past; and this is perhaps the reason why they are allowed to exist.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Continue reading Events in the Past May Be Roughly Divided Into Those Which Probably Never Happened and Those Which Do Not Matter

Notes:

  1. 1925 April 11, The Advertiser (Adelaide Advertiser), On Utopians: Some Thoughts on the Present Discontents, Quote Page 16, Column 6, Adelaide, South Australia. (NewspaperArchive)

The Aim of Education Is the Knowledge, Not of Facts, But of Values

William Ralph Inge? William S. Burroughs? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been attributed to two very different people: William Ralph Inge and William S. Burroughs:

The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.

Inge was a professor at Cambridge and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Burroughs was a member of the Beat Generation best known for authoring “Naked Lunch”. Should either of these figures receive credit for this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1917 the collection “Cambridge Essays on Education” appeared. Inge wrote a piece titled “The Training of the Reason” which included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The ideal object of education is that we should learn all that it concerns us to know, in order that thereby we may become all that it concerns us to be. In other words, the aim of education is the knowledge not of facts but of values. Values are facts apprehended in their relation to each other, and to ourselves. The wise man is he who knows the relative values of things. In this knowledge, and in the use made of it, is summed up the whole conduct of life.

William S. Burroughs was born in 1914; hence, he clearly did not coin this expression. He died in 1997, and he implausibly received credit in 2005 as indicated further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Aim of Education Is the Knowledge, Not of Facts, But of Values

Notes:

  1. 1917, Cambridge Essays on Education, Edited by A. C. Benson (Master of Magdalene College), The Training of the Reason by W. R. Inge (Dean of St. Paul’s), Start Page 12, Quote Page 12, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. (Google Books Full View) link

Two Kinds of Fools: This Is Old, Therefore It Is Good. This Is New, Therefore It Is Better

William Ralph Inge? John Brunner? Bishop of Ripon? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator: There are two different types of fools. One naively embraces and extolls everything that is old; the other credulously praises everything that is new. This insight has been ascribed to William Ralph Inge who was a professor at Cambridge and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It has also been attributed to the influential British science fiction author John Brunner. Would you please tell me the precise phrasing of this thought and who should receive credit?

Dear Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge who was widely known as Dean Inge wrote a long-lived column for the “Evening Standard” in London. Many pieces were collected in “Lay Thoughts of a Dean” and “More Lay Thoughts of a Dean”. The second volume contained articles published between 1928 and 1930 including an essay “Some Wise Saws” featuring the following adage: 1

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.”

John Brunner included a version of this saying in his 1975 novel “The Shockwave Rider”, but he credited Dean Inge. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading Two Kinds of Fools: This Is Old, Therefore It Is Good. This Is New, Therefore It Is Better

Notes:

  1. 1931, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean by William Ralph Inge, Section: Here, There, and Everywhere, Chapter 9: Some Wise Saws, Quote Page 201, Putnam, London and New York. (Verified with hardcopy)