Hellfire Club

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The Hellfire Club was a name for several exclusive clubs for high society rakes established in Britain and Ireland in the 18th century, and was more formally or cautiously known as the "Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe".[1] These clubs were rumoured to be the meeting places of "persons of quality"[2] who wished to take part in immoral acts, and the members were often very involved in politics. Neither the activities nor membership of the club are easy to ascertain.[3][4]

The very first Hellfire Club was founded in London in 1719, by Philip, Duke of Wharton and a handful of other high society friends.[5] The most infamous club associated with the name was established in England by Sir Francis Dashwood,[6] and met irregularly from around 1749 to around 1760, and possibly up until 1766.[7] Other clubs using the name "Hellfire Club" were set up throughout the 18th century. Most of these clubs were set up in Ireland after Wharton's were dispelled.[8]

The club motto was Fais ce que tu voudras (Do what thou wilt), a philosophy of life associated with François Rabelais' fictional abbey at Thélème[7][9] and later used by Aleister Crowley.

Contents

Duke of Wharton's club

Lord Wharton, made a Duke by George I,[10] was a prominent politician with two separate lives: the first, "a...man of letters" and the second, "...a drunkard, a rioter, an infidel and a rake".[11] The members of Wharton's club are largely unknown. Blackett-Ord[12] assumes that members included Wharton's immediate friends: Earl of Hillsborough, cousin - the Earl of Lichfield[clarification needed] and Sir Ed. O'Brien[clarification needed].[clarification needed] Aside from these names, other members are not revealed.[clarification needed]

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