So it was in the days of George II and his poor Queen Caroline, who, I am sure, often
wished herself back in her father's Margravate of Brandenburg-Anspach. The Georgian
undergraduates had their clubs for dining, wining, talking, gambling, reading, debating, dicing
and dancing, in College rooms and inn-parlors, in raftered halls and the paneled rooms of pleasant
private houses, new-risen in their Georgian red brick. They were all harmless enough-except the
Everlasting Club. It was evil, a callow sort of evil.
It aped that other Hell Fire Club of Medmenham Abbey, not far from that other place on
the upper reaches of the Thames. But this pale, Cambridge shadow of that gilded, gaudy evil
spawned by that other place, boasted no Barrymore, no Dashwood, no orgiastic revels in the
underground caverns of West Wycombe Park, or bawdy profanation of abbey cloisters. It merely
met in the rooms at the top of the landing, on the right-hand side, as you go up the stairs called
Cow Lane-without bumping your head. There were seven members only. They wer all young
and foolish, between twenty-two and thirty years of age. One was a Fellow of Jesus named
Charles Bellasis, a sprig of that noble family that produced the Lords Bellasis, more than one of
whom died on the point of a sword in riot and wine. Another was a Fellow-Commoner of Trinity.
The next two were Fellows of other colleges. The sixth was a young Cambridge doctor.
The Founder and President of this Club was the Honorable Alan Dermot, the son of an
Irish peer, who had a nobleman's degree at the University, which meant that he wore a tuft in his
'square' or academic cap. Hence the word 'tuft-hunter,' to describe those who fawned and
fattened on noble undergraduates in the days when they were distinguished by dress and privilege
from the common run. Dermot, an idle fellow, was vain, cruel and wicked. He learnt nothing but
vice, lived for naught but folly, and died with a rapier in his stomach, coughing out his blood, in
Paris in 1743. You may regard him as the evil genius of the other six members.
It was the duty of the secretary of this foolish, futile, but nonetheless Everlasting Club to
keep a Minute Book. That Book, detailing the Club's activities from the years 1738 to 1766 was,
according to the late Arthur Gray, until recent years Master of Jesus College, 'a stout duodecimo
volume, bound in red leather and fastened with red, silken strings.' There were forty pages of
goose-quill writing, in a plain, legible, educated hand. They ended abruptly with the date 2
The first pages of this book set out the laws of the Club. Here they are:
'1. This Society consisted of seven Everlastings, who may be Corporeal or Incorporeal,
as Destiny shall determine.
'2. The rules of the Society, as herein written, are immutable and Everlasting.
'3. None shall hereafter be chosen into the Society and none shall cease to be members.
'4. The Honorable Alan Dermot is the Everlasting President of the Society.
'5. The Senior Corporeal Everlasting, not being the President, shall be the Secretary of
the Society, and in this Book of Minutes shall record its transactions, the date at which any
Everlasting shall cease to be Corporeal, and all fines due to the Society. And when such Senior
Everlasting shall cease to be Corporeal he shall, either in person or by some sure hand, deliver
this Book of Minutes to him who shall be next Senior and at the time Corporeal, and he shall in
like manner record the transactions therein and transmit it to the next Senior. The neglect of these
provisions shall be visited by the President with fine or punishment according to his discretion.
'6. On the second day of November in every year, being the Feast of All Souls, at teno'clock
post meridiem, The Everlastings shall meet at supper in the place of residence of that
Corporeal member of the Society to whom it shall fall in order of rotation to entertain them and
they shall all subscribe in this Book of Minutes their names and present place of abode.
'7. It shall be the obligation of every Everlasting to be present at the yearly entertainment
of the Society, and none shall allege for excuse that he has not been invited thereto. If any
Everlasting shall fail to attend the yearly meeting, or in his turn fail to provide entertainment for
the Society, he shall be mulcted at the discretion of the President.
'8. Nevertheless, if in any year, in the month of October and not less than seven days
before the Feast of All Souls, the major part of the Society, that is to say, four at the least, shall
meet and record in writing in these Minutes that it is their desire that no entertainment be given
that year, then, notwithstanding the two rules last rehearsed, there shall be no entertainment in
that year, and no Everlasting shall be mulcted on the ground of his absence.'
There are other rules, but they are either too impious or childish to be worth printing.
They do show, however, the remarkable levity with which the Everlastings took on their fantastic
Morals were bad enough throughout England in the first half of the eighteenth century.
The reflex in the University was equally bad. Nonetheless, the behavior of the seven members of
the Everlasting Club scandalized even that lax age. Charles Bellasis was 'sent down.' Somehow
he contrived to retain his Fellowship. Other members were sent down by their various colleges as
the years went on. Yet, each year, they met in the rooms of whoever might be secretary at the
time. There they drank and sang far into the night and scandalized the college and the stars alike
with their riotous debaucheries.
The Minutes were kept religiously; perhaps one should say irreligiously, for not only is
there a record of attendances, fines inflicted and the rest of the Club business, but each page
carries obscene and irreverent remarks.