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Despite the somewhat abrupt start and ending to the narrative, this is a fairly solid, evidence based history of trangressive male clubs with a side view at moral majority reactions to the media coverage of the day and to very real disorder in the streets in eighteenth century North Atlantic culture.Unfortunately, the determination of Evelyn Lord not to speculate beyond the available evidence is limiting The organisations being studied actually very disparate in nature are, by definition, secret This means that, while the author s conclusions are always sensible and she is probably reliable in representing the most likely function of the clubs in any one situation and at any one time, many questions remain about the motivation and meaning of transgression for the middle and upper classes of the time It may be that such questions will never be answered One school of thought likes to push the clubs into the territory of the esoteric Another likes to explain themsociologically in pragmatic or merely playful terms As always, the truth is probably somewhere in between The evidence tends to drive us away from the esoteric and the spiritual but the evidence is also so sparse that we can never be sure of our ground hence the interpretative vacuum in which so many, often quite demented, speculations are allowed to flourish.Still, this book is an excellent starting point for further investigation The difficulty with it is that the author s reluctance to analyse in favour of just telling the story leaves that burden with us We, the readers, have to try and order a narrative that is fairly clear as to what happens when to whom but remains unclear as to the story s full meaning Sometimes it descends into the anecdotal with short sections on many one off clubs, some of which like the Beefsteaks seem far from transgressional and others like the Kingdom of Dalkey merely carnivalesque and very public If we learn anything, it is that transgressional clubs with the probable exception of the Beggar s Benison movement are exceptional, marginal and isolated even if, on occasions, they may be culturally initiative and sometimes highly entertaining to read about Perhaps we can start by trying to break down the phenomenon into its probable components First, there is a political story about how a class of psychologically vulnerable young aristocrats, returning from exile after a puritanical bourgeois revolution against their kind, and dependent on a strong Crown for patronage, threw their victory in the face of the still strong middle class urban establishment as gross bad behaviour and the type of extreme sexual transgression that is represented in literature by the Earl of Rochester The establishment had permitted the return of monarchy Charles II did not return to England except by invitation and it was an invitation that might be withdrawn at any time The struggle between executive authority and its court and a country which had re ordered itself completely after the execution of Charles I would continue in many forms over many decades The frustration of some elements in the aristocracy at their uncertain condition alongside a natural bit of youthful revolt against their elders often expressed itself in transgressive behaviour in drinking and whoring clubs sometimes with a link to Jacobitism after the arrival of the Hanoverians Thepersonally unstable members of the aristocracy exhibited wild behavior closer to that of, say, the tabloid image of a Pete Docherty today than, say, that of the people s princess, Cheryl Cole.In this context, the transgressive behaviour of Anglo Irish aristocrats of the Protestant Ascendancy might be regarded as the most in yer face of all as far as the wider population were concerned If aristocrats in England were insulting the s of tradesmen, at least the tradesmen were free men on middle class incomes In Ireland, the aristocrats were insulting a vast under nourished and depressed peasantry whose entire culture was alien to them To drink toasts to the devil if this ever happened was not just arrogant and contemptuous of ordinary folk , it was rubbing a crushed people s noses in the aristocrat s own shit No wonder the peasants clung to their simple Catholic faith against such people or at least as the latter were presented to them in the media of the day and by story telling repute.This leads us to the second factor Much of this transgression in the first third or so of the century wass taking place amongst late adolescents and early twenty somethings with too much money, expectations of future inheritance and so too easy credit or hoping for the patronage of the first two categories The book is good on the role of the new hack media and pamphlets in fuelling what we would now call tabloid accounts of what went on amongst what were really littlethan local gangs of testosterone fuelled lads This was the sort of behaviour that footballers are now said to get up to in hotel rooms with willing groupies and hookers with added violence Eighteenth century England was becoming, for a while, before various reform movements began their back lash, an increasingly libertarian culture with no effective restraint in terms of public morality, one where the majority were pruriently fascinated by transgression and yet seeking to control it as socially damaging the analogy with contemporary culture is surprisingly close although Lord determinedly avoids such comparisons.Young males of wealth were also being sent on the Grand Tour by mid century as a matter of course Though most travelers probably conducted themselves much as expected by their elders, we have a creative minority who developed a fascination with what they saw and who sought to bring new ideas back to England where they fuelled a new aristocratic high culture that wasprivate, less urban, based on their estates and, because behind closed doors,able to adopt transgressive forms where the will existed.This brings us to the third model of transgression the so called Hell fire Club of Sir Francis Dashwood and friends The name is a journalistic creation and there is no point in reproducing the detail of the story here In conformity with the author s concern only to deal with available evidence, this undoubtedly sexually transgressive Club, which has to be seen in the context of the significant and fertile contribution of Dashwood and his high aristocratic and intelligent bourgeois friends to wider British culture, is dealt with a bit cursorily in the book, repeating material easily found elsewhere if here withjudgement However, what is clear a visit to the re modelled Parish Church in West Wyncombe is sufficient evidence of this is that Dashwood was seeking to recreate a pagan Mediterranean sensibility behind the hedges and fences guarding the one final truth of the English revolution the right of an estate holder to do what he willed without interference of the State on his own property so long as he treated other English people as men and women with free choices and so distinct from continental aristocratic practice Basically, a whore could decline to be used if the price was not right and staff must be paid in coin.The most charged speculations have always surrounded the sexual and esoteric aspects of the Club and the degree to which the highly intelligent but self avowedly dilettante Dashwood was cocking a snook at the respectable establishment of the day Even the significance of the sexual element has probably been exaggerated at the expense of the convivial because it is fairly clear that Dashwood was merely taking existing eighteenth century attitudes and just playing them out to their logical culmination under conditions where money and privacy were no object Dashwood just added intellect to the mix.In a world where men were married off for reasons of property as much as women, it was widely understood that pleasure and affectional relationships would have to operate within a parallel system to that of the conventional The attraction of paganism would simply have been that it endorsed emotional reality a precursor of romantic sensibility rather than forced men of wealth into a tyrannical Judaeo Christian straitjacket, an imposition on the wealthy by those people who could not afford their natural instincts to be openly expressed under urban or small town scrutiny Pepys diary not covered in this book is full of perfectly reasonable affection and regard for a wife alongside erotic and affectional regard for other women, including the wives of friends, and this was quite normal for the time By the mid eighteenth century, reformers so often the bane of the lives of free men alongside the good they do for the truly oppressed had made such freedoms a matter of censure for both men and women alike, moving England slowly but steadily towards the era of High Victorian morality where no respectable member of society could put a foot out of place in any social space, even the otherwise private space of the club All that misplaced sexual energy was soon expanding an empire and slaughtering natives As for the esoteric, there is no real evidence of some serious cult in Dashwood s circle but only of free thinking men and probably women exploring transgressional ideas and adding transgressional behaviour to spice up their sexual lives perhaps with foreign travel, the collection of texts and the plots and schemes of English politics creating an air of secrecy and resistance to the growing air of worthy conformity that was to be almost totalitarian in its effect on English culture by the mid Victorian era The fact that Dashwood and his circle were outside the influence of Benjamin Franklin on the American Revolution effectively political failures suggests a degree of boredom behind the transgression What do you do when you are a rich man without gainful employment Wilkes became a success by making a career of political transgression but only after he had broken with this set and was forced into extremity in order to be noticed.It must be said that these transgressors were all rich enough to indulge their tastes They tended to flaunt like modern financiers their wealth and freedom in front of struggling tradesmen engaged in six day trudgery and church on Sunday There is no evidence that Dashwood did not pay his bills but many aristocrats did not Failure to pay a tailor s bill could ruin his family In a world where such tailors read the Bible and Pilgrim s Progress, this aping of French disregard of ordinary folk was not liberation to them but oppression The final turn to this aspect of the story, before the arrival of the next generation of dull establishment political clubs, such as the Beefsteaks where Gladstone and royalty ate comfortably, is the association of Dashwood with Benjamin Franklin and the work that they did together to simplify the Book of Common Prayer It is implied in many quarters that they might have talked of liberty in terms that would be understood in the American taverns that later revolted against local tyranny, first against local puritanism and then, at the right time, against a Crown whose only interest seemed to be to tax the middle classes to maintain wars to benefit the big men of their day So matters turned full circle eighteenth century transgression had started as an aristocratic revolt against an embedded establishment A century later transgression is placed partly, if marginally, at the service of revolt by thelibertarian small man of property against that very same establishment, now in office for over a hundred settled years and probably to reach its apogee of sclerosis under Wellington and Castlereagh in the 1820s.This brings us to the second half of the book which is an eye opening account of a community of apparent transgression, based in Anglo Scottish culture, that was clearly a revolt against the tendency of the Kirk to claim rights on all private life This expressed itself as a network of voyeuristic and masturbatory clubs of prominent establishment males which may have been muchwidespread than the remaining evidence at St Andrew s University suggests and which spread through northern trade routes This Beggar s Benison movement seems to have started around the Firth of Forth at mid century, to have had no or little connection with English aristocratic transgression although it had some possible link to the emergence of pornographic literature in London and to have spread through the Baltic to the British community in Russia and West to the United States As it spread, it seems to have cleaned up as it did over time in Scotland and become part of the tavern club culture that we noted above as potentially revolutionary in force.The customs of this Movement are so counter intuitive to our vision of Scottish sexual puritanism that they can only be explained by our making a major mental paradigm shift back into the world of Scottish modernisation and, at least for its precursors, into the debates over the Union with England analogous to the debate over the European Union today and the role of the Kirk Secrecy about being pro English or anti Presbyterian might have been as sensible at one time as, amongst other political choices, being pro Jacobite However, the Scottish origin transgressive clubs appear to have been cultural rather than political The real interest here is in the nature of Scottish sexual repression where the prime interest and this appears to occur elsewhere in the story is not in sexual conduct per se so much as in scientific observation of female genitalia and in proving manhood through public or rather private to the club production of semen.This is behind the bike sheds stuff It seems like an extension of all male education into adulthood as fixed and fetishistic sexual behaviour There is none of that implied Eyes Wide Shut eroticism of high English aristocratic transgression with willing whores and mistresses This is paying servant girls to show their pussies and then expelling from the club the man who got so excited that he actually touched one the nearest analogy here is with the modern lap dancing club and the no touch rule You can imagine the girls laughing all the way to the bank.So, the author is offering us two separate narratives The first is of the increasing attempt by some of the people considered to be natural rulers of their country, frustrated at having to bow down before a restrictive cultural conformity, to take their revolt from the streets as arrogant kids and back into the safety of their private estates before finally giving up and joining the establishment, reserving their subsequent sexual pleasures to the whore house and the mistress The second is of a repressed modernising and increasingly libertarian middle class of traders and businessmen trying to come to terms with their sexuality without risking their property and using the cover of Enlightenment investigation to find some low risk non homosexual male bonding and a bit of sexual titillation behind closed doors.The two narratives never quite converge though there are other stories of the emergence of pornographic literature, of high aristocratic interest in radical libertarian ideas and of tavern culture as a form of resistance to the power of the established church that overlap a little with both Transgressive clubs are interesting less because of what they say about their members as that they were ever necessary in the first place These clubs are a back handed compliment to the power of the Judaeo Christian culture in which they were embedded Think of the growing power of methodism, of anti alcohol and anti sex industry campaigns, of the evangelical drive against slavery, of the promotion of the place of the woman as angel of the home, of the increasing need to be sexually discreet, of the relationship between sexuality and property and the increasing expectation that order be imposed by the State On top of this, observe the perils of rapid modernisation and the management of emotion into sentiment and away from its raw expression as violence or lust All this is combined into one dominant culture that was eventually structured to repress any sexual dialogue and then channel it back into faux pagan performance art and that peculiar British attitude that sex is naughty but nice , much like a cream cake, to be eaten and enjoyed only occasionally, in private and with considerable guilt at its presumed bad effects on both body and soul.The roots of the decadent rebellion of the 1890s with its faux paganism and its fetishistic attitude towards sexuality were in this same culture Both rebellions, whether of the Hellfire Club or the decadents, certainly based on any sensible assessment of what happened afterwards, only point up the extent of the repressed sexual culture of the bulk of the British in history Repression has been the national cultural norm of the British people from the Glorious Revolution to the 1980s Even now, occasional moral panics from our modern tabloids and the commercialisation of sexuality suggest that underlying attitudes remain driven by sensational and by the naughty but nice cream cake model of sex.The book covers none of this cultural ground in depth but it is very good on the politics and sociology of the eighteenth century Evelyn Lord is not interested in lessons from history but only in telling the story as she finds it It is also a mine of amusing anecdotes with the added advantage that Evelyn Lord is very good at sifting fact from fiction and ensuring that we understand that most tales of transgression were probably fictional and certainly over blown On that basis, the book is recommended but you will have to make up your own mind as to its meaning. Not the kind of book the sensationalist sub title promises, but a broadly academic study of various of the hellfire clubs in the British isles It was interesting and kind of informative, but not hugely so I would only recommend this if you are used to academic historiographical writing. On researching my favorite founding father, Ben Franklin, I found that it was rud that he had attended a Hellfire Club Intrigued, I decided to find outabout these secret organizations This book goes into great detail about them, much is mere speculation as they were secret organizations Most of them were domains of the wealthy and despite the rumors, were mainly places to relax, act and dress silly , tell bawdy stories and of course, get drunk Although, there are some confirmed accounts of rowdies attacking innocent people, clubs that paid local girls to strip although they only looked, didn t touch , illicit sex, mutual masturbation, blasphemy and mocking religion, and possible devil worship, for the most part, these clubs were likely quite innocent If you are into British history and want to read an in depth study of these clubs, which reveal few confirmed details of their existence go ahead and read this book By the way, Ben Franklin, most likely, didn t attend the clubs He did work on revising the Book of Common Prayer with a reputed club founder after the club was disbanded Knowing that Franklin was a Deist who believed religion should help serve the people, I really doubt he would join in anti religious activities Being that he was quite fond of women, he could, possibly, have been tempted by the sexual activities. On one hand, I could give this book five stars because the author clearly conducted meticulous research into the people and clubs and politics she covers over the span of time she addresses On the other hand, it s supposed to be about sex, satanism, and secret societies but I learnedabout British politics and Catholics versus Protestants in the British royal sphere Even when the author does get to the sex, satanism, and secret societies , she quickly dismisses and hardly describes the alleged goings on as rumors, boys will be boys behaviors or misunderstandings of history I get it, as she says, other authors have embellished the truth and made too much out of what she shows were drinking clubs formed by bored aristocratson the other hand she called her book THE HELLFIRE CLUBS SEX, SATANISM AND SECRET SOCIETIES so I wantedfrom it That earns it a one star rating So, I m compromising and giving it three stars.but ugh, what a slog of a read. ( Download Pdf ) ⚒ The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies ♀ The Hell Fire Clubs Scandalized Eighteenth Century English Society Rumors Of Their Orgies, Recruitment Of Prostitutes, Extensive Libraries Of Erotica, Extreme Rituals, And Initiation Ceremonies Circulated Widely At The Time, Only To Become Sensational As Generations Passed This Thoroughly Researched Book Sets Aside The Exaggerated Gossip About The Secret Hell Fire Clubs And Brings To Light The First Accurate Portrait Of Their Membership Including John Wilkes, The Chancellor Of The Exchequer, And The Prince Of Wales , Beliefs, Activities, And The Reasons For Their Proliferation, First In The British Isles And Later In America, Possibly Under The Auspices Of Benjamin FranklinHell Fire Clubs Operated Under A Variety Of Titles, But All Attracted Similar Members Mainly Upper Class Men With Abundant Leisure And The Desire To Shock Society The Book Explores The Social And Economic Context In Which The Clubs Emerged And Flourished Their Various Phases, Which First Involved Violence As An Assertion Of Masculinity, Then Religious Blasphemy, And Later Sexual Indulgence And The Countermovement That Eventually Suppressed Them Uncovering The Facts Behind The Hell Fire Legends, This Book Also Opens A Window On The Rich Contradictions Of The Enlightenment Period This is the least salacious book about Hell Fire Clubs you ll ever read What I wanted the sensational books make me think I m reading something by Tipper Gore It s an odd one the author works hard to put the clubs in context, and by doing so provides a course on remedial 18th century history, mainly repeating a few bits over and over The details on the clubs are scanty not surprising since they were secret clubs and there are few records and so the book is a mishmash of the history of clubs and politics in general, contemporary accounts, and repetitive information about the few Hell Fire clubs we know about The repetition was what did me in Yes, okay, I got it after falling out, Wilkes was the mortal enemy of the Earl of Sandwich and Sir Francis Dashwood HOW MANY TIMES DOES THIS NEED TO COME UP Also, yes, the connection between Sandwich and Rochester Got it, over and over and over again And really One of my great grandfathers logged old growth forests, but I m a treehugger who wants to save ALL the spotted owls Blame the culture of the time, not the family connection Rochester, among others, is described in character sketches that lack nuance We re really going to take the deathbed conversion at face value To sum it up yeah, there were Hell Fire clubs, but the Satanism Probably not Sexual stuff Probably Upper class Mostly, except for in Scotland and the colonies. Picked this up expecting that the book would 1 establish that these kinds of clubs didn t really exist in the fashion portrayed in the popular imaginary, 2 run through the actually existing models, and 3 riff on exactly how the popular imaginary did in fact construct the penny dreadful version of the clubs Sadly, while I got 1 , the discussion of 2 was fairly sketchy and fragmented, and 3 was barely there at all The result is that the book doesn t really justify its own existence there s really not enough source material to support a full book, and the author winds up just cramming in tangentially related material to pad out the page count rather than engaging in the deeper analysis a monograph should include Structurally, the book does itself no favors either, with case study chapters rubbing up against location based surveys andgeneral subjects, with lots of repetition between chapters There s some entertaining incidental trivia about early modern Britain, some miscellaneous stories of gentry behaving badly, and a couple of anecdotes pointing towards some interesting secret societies, but there s just not much there there. This is my first full on history book I picked up to read , and that too on an esoteric and frankly, titillating topic The interest in Secret societies has pervasively increased , which earlier belonged to strait jacketed esoterica , after reading Dan Brown s Robert Langdon series Coming to the book , Dashwood does a clean job of it by transparently sifting the fact from the propaganda , which is the first thing one would look for in such a topic The effects of such underground societies of which certain geniuses were members , on later day Victorian moral and social conventions has been delineated well Further , Dashwood gives the interpretative freedom to the reader , without any self assumed responsibility for moral or religious policing A fine read , only if you are curious about the subject. Very readable and thorough, if not especially deep, book about the men s clubs in English speaking upper class society in the 18th Century, with a focus on those that secretly celebrated blasphemy and sexual deviance There is not a lot of historical context only because to provide it woudl require a 1200 page history of the period, or something, and the sources are thin enough and unreliable enough that much of the information is spotty Even so, Lord does a wonderful job of weaving it all into a wicked narrative that s skeptical toward the claims of contemporaries and later writers, but still has plenty of fun with the misbehavior of the wealthy Anyone but a history nerd would probably find it fairly dry, but I loved it The references are exceptional, which is valuable when looking at a fairly obscure topic like this. not an iota as racy as the title suggests but that doesn t really matter as it had lots of interesting facts on the hellfire clubs itself it was a bit thin on the ground as there seemingly are no proper i.e trustworthy sources but reports from outsiders or vengeful ex members which leaves most things up to speculation the main picture painted is one of a club of men who liked to drink, gamble and cause general mischief much like the gangs of today but in its heyday a lot of it on the richer side of society that development from the disorderly rioteers to gentlemanly pleasure clubs was well presented all in all, it showsabout the 18th century in britain and it is good at that although the title seems to be a bit of a misnomer