Tag Archives: William Ralph Inge

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


  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)

Originality Is Undetected Plagiarism

Voltaire? William Ralph Inge? Herbert Paul? Paul Chatfield? Horace Smith? Katharine Fullerton Gerould? Anonymous?

copydoc14Dear Quote Investigator: I have been attempting to trace a provocative and humorous remark about originality that has been attributed to a professor at the University of Cambridge named William Ralph Inge:

Originality is undetected plagiarism.

Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge held the position of Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in addition to his professorship, and he was typically referred to as Dean Inge. He did make a comparable remark in 1928 but disclaimed authorship. The earliest closely matching statement located by QI was published in the journal “The Nineteenth Century” in 1896 by the English writer and politician Herbert Paul: 1

And, after all, what is originality? It is merely undetected plagiarism.

The saying has a long history and important precursors were in circulation in the 1700s and 1800s as illustrated below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading


  1. 1896 April, The Nineteenth Century, Volume 39, The Decay of Classical Quotation by Herbert Paul, Start Page 636, Quote Page 645, Published by Sampson, Low, Marston and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link