What led so many Georgian young men to thumb their noses - or worse - at civil society? Pity poor Max Mosley. Had he been born two centuries earlier he could have joined a socially exclusive club devoted to dressing up, role-playing and sado-masochistic sex, without all that unpleasantness in the tabloids and courts. Damn and blast the modern age.
Review: The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord - Telegraph
By Hogarth. But his was by no means the only Hell Fire club, nor the most famous spawned in the enthusiastically libertine eighteenth Century. A secret cabal made up of the landed elite and political opposition — a shadow government in waiting; rumored to hold secret Satanic rituals in a secluded abbey and nearby caves, engaging in blasphemous orgies where members, dressed as friars and nuns, met in all manner of fornication and adulteries. Eventually they took power in the ministry of Lord Bute, but soon over-reached themselves, and were ultimately betrayed by one of their own. Sir Francis dressed to impress, at the Divan Club.
The purpose of the club was to provide a place for fun, like-minded, intelligent people who wanted a place to be themselves. Dashwood was a bit of a rebel. Inspired by the brainchild of the Duke of Wharton, Dashwood had a vision for yet another club that made him famous — the Hellfire Club. Eventually, the founders altered its name slightly to become the Order of the Knights of St Francis. Membership numbers began to increase rapidly and a large venue was needed to accommodate.
Historians have needed a new book-length history of the so-called Hell-Fire Clubs of the 18th century for some time. In practice however, they rarely do more than gloss well known printed sources. As a result, they tend to do little more than summarize the printed record, often failing to distinguish social fact from literary fiction — and more often than not fail to put either into a proper historical context. On the other hand are those who offer unsubstantiated accounts of Hell-Fire Club activities.