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Raising Hell: The Notorious History of the Hellfire Club

No, we’re not talking about the Eddie Munson led Hawkins High School D&D club, we’re talking about the original Hellfire Club of the 1700s that saw gentlemen (and ladies) coming together and behaving badly.

The Hellfire Club has been around for over 300 years. They have a reputation as dens of iniquity and riotous, orgiastic revelry. There is very little documentary evidence about the proceedings. (The first rule of Hellfire Club is apparently “You do not talk about Hellfire Club.”)

The Orgy, plate III from ‘A Rake’s Progress’, 1733-98 (engraving)

Rumors abound, and several people have attempted to bring them to life in literature and other mediums. Suffice it to say that nobody but club members knows what goes on in a hellfire club. What follows are the facts as we know them.

Philip, the Duke of Wharton (1698–1731), is credited with founding the first so-named Hellfire Club in 1719 when he was just 20 years old.

The primary purpose of Wharton’s club was the performance of satirical religious ceremonies, possibly inspired by the works of Voltaire and the then-popular fad among the upper classes of blasphemy.

Unlike later hellfire clubs, Wharton’s club accepted women as full members. The club held its meetings on Sundays at various locations around London…. read more >

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