The Secret History Of The Hell-Fire Clubs

From Rabelais and John Dee to Anton LaVey and Timothy Leary

By Geoffrey Ashe

Published by Inner Traditions

Most people have heard of the Hell-Fire Clubs. Mention the name and most people think of upper-class rakes involved in debauchery – which is true but not the entire truth, as this excellent book reveals.

The Hell-Fire Clubs owe their origins to the work of Francois Rabelais and John Dee. The Hell-Fire Clubs’ motto: “Do what you will” is taken from the work of Rabelais and later adopted by Aleister Crowley.

Ashe writes of the very first Hell-Fire Club, founded by Philip, Duke of Wharton, in 1720 and he explores in great detail the life of Sir Francis Dashwood, founding member of the Society of the Dilettanti and the scandalous Monks of Medmenham.

Ashe also writes of other Hell-Fire Clubs in Ireland, Scotland, and England, revealing that many illustrious figures of the day were involved in these societies. It is even rumoured that Benjamin Franklin was a member.

Ashe also explores the Hell-Fire Clubs’ influence right up to the present day, making this a relevant and enthralling book.

Highly recommended.

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (