Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Inett, John

INETT, JOHN (1647–1717), church historian, was descended from a Huguenot family, Inette of Picardy, which settled in England. His father, Richard Inett, married a lady of the family of Hungerford of Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, and lived on a small income at Rock, near Bewdley. For the sake of the education of his children he removed to Bewdley, where John, his second son, was brought up at the grammar school. At the age of fourteen John was given an exhibition on the foundation of the Earl of Leicester, and went up to University College, Oxford, in 1661. He was not, however, matriculated till 17 July 1663 (University College Admission Book); he graduated B.A. in 1666 and M.A. in 1669. He received a special privilege, for he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Gloucester on 22 Sept. 1667, when he had not completed his twenty-first year. This is the more remarkable as it does not seem to have been done with any immediate view to clerical work. Inett apparently pursued his studies at Oxford, where after a time he was presented to the rectory of St. Ebbe's. There he made the acquaintance of Thomas Barlow, afterwards bishop of Lincoln, who recommended him to Sir Richard Newdigate, on whose recommendation he was presented by the crown to the vicarage of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, in 1678, and acted as Newdigate's chaplain at Arbury. There, in 1680, he married Mary, daughter of the Rev. Richard Harrison, chancellor of the cathedral church of Lichfield. On 1 Aug. he preached an assize sermon at Warwick, which was published. It shows that Inett had caught the proper spirit of his age, combined loyalty to the king with detestation of popery, and was dexterous in recommending this combination as the panacea for political and religious discontent. In February Bishop Barlow appointed him precentor of Lincoln Cathedral, and in 1685 he was presented by the dean and chapter to the living of Tansor in Northamptonshire. In 1688 he published a little book of devotions, 'Guide to the Devout Christian,' to which he added a second part in 1692, 'Guide to Repentance.' These books enjoyed considerable popularity in their day; in 1764 were issued the sixteenth edition of the first and the tenth edition of the second. In 1700 he was appointed chaplain in ordinary to William III. Perhaps because Cambridge was nearer Lincoln than Oxford, and he wished to use its library, he was incorporated member of St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1701, and took the degree of D.D. in that university, to which he sent two of his sons. In 1706 he resigned the living of Tansor in favour of his son Richard, and took instead that of Clayworth, Nottinghamshire. In 1714 he was presented by the crown to the more valuable living of Wirksworth, Derbyshire (Cox, Derbyshire Churches, iv. 521). He died in 1717, and a simple tablet was erected by his widow to his memory in Lincoln Cathedral (Willis, Cathedrals, p.542).

Inett's claim to remembrance rests on his book 'Origines Anglicanæ,' of which the first volume was published in London in 1704. His object in writing was to fill the gap between two great books of his own time, Stillingfleet's 'Origines Britannicæ' and Burnet's 'History of the Reformation.' In this undertaking he was helped by the advice of Kennett (Ballard MSS., Bodleian Library, xv. 26, 27), and his first volume was well received. It was, however, full of printers' errors, sorely to Inett's annoyance; and when the second volume was ready he made over the copyright to the Oxford University Press, by which it was printed in 1710. Advancing years prevented him from fulfilling his original design, and his two volumes folio only embrace the history of the English church from 401 to 1216. His book is well and clearly written, and is chiefly concerned with tracing the progress of papal aggression on the liberties of the English church. It has the merit of pursuing definite points and is well arranged; but it is not conceived on a high level of scholarship or accuracy. It had a certain vogue in its own time, and was republished, edited by Griffiths, Oxford, 1855; but the frequent corrections required from the editor show that the mistakes were due to the author as much as to the printer. At the time of the appearance of the book Hearne judged that Inett depended too much on second-hand authorities, had no knowledge of manuscript authorities, and said little that was new; but he regarded him as `vir plane probus et integer' (Collections, ii. 337, iii. 46, 195). As a matter of fact Inett's book was rapidly superseded by Collier's 'Ecclesiastical History,' which was founded upon sounder knowledge. Inett, indeed, was rather a man of scholarly tastes than a student. Browne Willis speaks of his 'Collections' as being useful to him for his 'Survey of Lincoln Cathedral' (p. 88).

[Life by Griffiths prefixed to the edition of the Origines, 1855; Kennett's Collections, Lansdowne MS. 987, f. 244; Wood's Fasti Oxonienses, ed. Bliss, ii. 308; Nicholson's Historical Library, pp. 102, 109; Hearne's Collections (Oxford Hist. Soc.), i. 322; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, iv. 450.]

M. C.