Providing a history of these infamous clubs, Geoffrey Ashe reveals their origins in the work of François Rabelais and the activities of John Dee. He shows how the Hell-Fire Clubs’ anything-goes philosophy of “Do what you will”—also Aleister Crowley’s famous motto--and community template were drawn directly from Rabelais. The author looks at the very first Hell-Fire Club, founded by Philip, Duke of Wharton, in 1720 and then at the Society of the Dilettanti, a fraternity formed in 1732. Ashe examines the life, travels, and influences of Sir Francis Dashwood, founding member of the Society of the Dilettanti and the scandalous Permissive Society at Medmenham, also known as the Monks of Medmenham. He also explores other Hell-Fire clubs the movement inspired throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, including the violence-prone Mohocks and the Appalling Club. He shows how many illustrious figures of the day were members of these societies, such as Lord Byron. He also examines the rumors that Benjamin Franklin was a member, an allegation that can be neither confirmed nor denied. Exploring the political and magical ideas that fueled this movement, the author shows how the cross-fertilization of liberty and libertinage within the Hell-Fire Clubs went on to influence both the U.S. and French revolutions, as well as the hippie movement of the 1960s, the Church of Satan founded by Anton LaVey, and the motorcycle club known as the Hells Angels. The legacy of the Hell-Fire Clubs continues to impact society, beckoning both elite and outsider to cast aside social norms and “do what you will.”
THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE HELL-FIRE CLUBS: From Rabelais and John Dee to Anton LaVey and Timothy Leary By Geoffrey Ashe. 304 Pages. 6x9 Paperback. Illustrated. References.