cover image The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies

The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies

Evelyn Lord, . . Yale Univ., $32.50 (250pp) ISBN 978-0-300-11667-0

Lord (Knights Templar in Britain ) charts the rise and fall of the secret Hell-Fire Clubs, dispelling myths and exaggerated tales to present an accurate portrait of the upper-class male members, their activities and the events that led to club formations in Britain and America during the 18th century. The author sifts fact from fiction as she provides an entertaining catalogue of various clubs—the Mohocks, the Medmenham Friars, the Beggar's Benison. Readers looking for sordid tales of orgies and satanic rituals may be disappointed by Lord's findings, which reveal that the clubs were more preoccupied with drinking, costumes, politics, dirty poetry and blasphemous jokes than with sacrificing virgins. However, the book is peppered with salacious tidbits, as the clubs did enjoy boxes of imported leather dildos, strippers, violent and random attacks on strangers, erotic literature and Bibles decorated with phallic symbols. This well-researched work—which also profiles important club members and explains the demise of the clubs in the 19th century—is a must-read for anyone interested in uncovering the truth about the legendary Hell-Fire Clubs. (Nov.)