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Minutes of an Annual General Meeting of the Hell Fire Club

September 25, 2013


Last summer I found myself at a book-fair in Marlow.  Nuzzling, half hidden, upon one of the more antiquarian tables, I discovered my prize, my rare prize, nothing less than a first edition of the collected poems of Paul Whitehead.  Feverish with excitement, I made an unreasonable offer, secured my precious book and hurried away to enjoy.

Settling myself down to enjoy Whitehead’s masterpiece (“The State Dunces”), I found my intentions frustrated by the fact that many of the pages remained uncut.  This added an extra frisson to the adventure, for I was to be the very very first reader of much of this material.   Drawing my trusty paper cutter from its sheath (kept about my person for precisely this emergency), I deftly cut the virgin page and to my astonishment three or four very thin pieces of paper fell into my lap – each leaf covered with a dense and minute script.

I have made a very careful transcription and secured the original manuscript in a very safe and secret location.  (My close friends in Macpherson/Ossian studies are forever warning me of the dangers of waving original manuscripts around in public.)  As I began to read and transcribe. I discovered that what I had found was nothing less than an original draft for a meeting of an annual general meeting of the Hell Fire Club.  Undated, internal evidence suggests a meeting some time around 1761-2.

President: F. Dashwood
Secretary: P. Whitehead
Treasurer: F. Dashwood

Social Secretary: J. Wilkes

Catering:  Ld. Sandwich.

Apologies for Absence:  Churchill, C.  Lloyd P, Franklin, B, Johnson S, Wesley J.

PW inquired as to whether or not S. Johnson and J. Wesley really were members of the society in good standing.  JW  replied that they received the newsletter and had not given formal notification that they intended to leave the society.  FD agreed that their unpaid subscriptions be allowed to accrue, with compound interest applied.

Correspondence:  A letter from the Wycombe and Marlow Noise Abatement Society.  PW gave the gist of the epistle which proved a lot of whining about “residential areas” and “strange and ungodly shrieks” and “a lot of people have to get up in the morning”.    Proposal tabled to evict the entire town of Marlow.  Proposed F. Dashwood and seconded Ld. Sandwich.  Carried unanimously.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting.

Held over till the next meeting.  Said minutes accidentally recycled as pie bottoms.  PW promised that the minutes will be recast in heroic couplets, privately printed for the benefit of the society.

Extraordinary Business.

J. Wilkes reported.  Unfavourable reaction to the current name of the society has been reported.  Obtaining a bank account under the name of “Hell Fire Club” has proved all but impossible (and certain traders in essential vendibles have refused to make out bills to any such name, believing their own souls to be thereby in peril).  Meanwhile the streamlining of the society’s finances requires proper legal accounting.  (F. Dashwood prodded awake at this point.)  Other suggestions, such as “The Order of St Francis” or “The Monks of Medmenham Abbey” provoke possible prosecutions under current legislation designed to proscribe papistical organisations.   JW therefore proposed some less provocative and more deliberately confusing name that would enable the society to function more easily.

“What then do we stand for?  What is our purpose?  And how can this purpose be preserved yet secreted within a plausible acronym?”

Gentlemen – we stand for brutish surrender to extreme carnal satisfactions.  Let me say it again – we stand for brutish surrender to extreme carnal satisfactions.  I repeat yet again – Brutish Surrender to Extreme Carnal Satisfactions (loud applause).  Take these initial letters – BSECS – and they may be  innocuously applied to almost any activity imaginable:  Bedfordshire Society for the Encouragement of Clean Shirts, for example.  The doors of parish halls will be open to us.  Drafty abbey ruins and cave tunnels need no longer be our own resource.  Why, even the gates of Oxford colleges may come to welcome us and then mayhap even Johnson S and Wesley J will see fit to honour us with their presence.  Yet preserved within these letters will remain encoded our original and I trust, eternal purpose.  Nobody here, I am sure that we would ever abandon our original carnal vocation, no matter how our name is encoded (loud cries of “never!” “never!”)

This motion to change the name of the society was proposed by JW and seconded by PW and unanimously carried.  The meeting then initiated a very striking discussion of the possible admission of women members.  Unfortunately, like nearly all eighteenth-century manuscripts, the fatal indentations of pie bottom appropriation marked the jagged conclusion to this narrative.  If any can plausibly extrapolate the conclusion to this meeting, they are to be congratulated.  If any can do so without reference to the Freemasons or the Knights Templar, they are to be congratuated to the skies.


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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    On the cusp of BSECS – I’m reblogging this… Oxford, here I come.

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