The first entry which begins to give a hint of the terrible end of the Club is that under the
date of 2 November, 1743. That night the members dined in the house of the young Cambridge
doctor. One member, Henry Davenport, a Fellow-Commoner of Trinity, was not there. He had
been an officer in King George's army, and had been killed at the Battle of Dettingen, the last
battle, incidentally, in which the British Army was led in person by the Monarch.
The members did not know, when they sat down to dine, that davenport was dead. He
was absent, so he had to be fined. And he was. The Minutes contained the simple entry:
'Mulctatus propter absentiam per Presidentem, Hen. Davenport.'
Did the ghost of the dead Davenport, now an Incorporeal Everlasting, sit down to dine that
night, as he had sworn in life to do? It seems likely, for on the next page there is this entry:
'Henry Davenport, by a Canon-shot, became an Incorporeal Member; 3 November 1743.'
How, you may ask, could the members know of his death within a few hours of their
dining that night, unless he, Davenport, appeared in spirit that night, at the dinner table, to tell
them that he was either dead or about to die? He may, indeed, have been dead by the time the
dinner was finished, since they went on well into the early hours of 3 November, when the second entry was written.
There was no telephone, no wireless, no railways, no airplanes, no means of
communications save couriers, who took days on horse-back and aboard sailing ships to bring
such news so swiftly in short a time.
So it seems likely enough that the six Everlastings, those still alive sat down to dine that
night in the young Cambridge doctor's house with Dermot at the head of the table-and one empty
chair. They dined and they drank wine. They 'claretted and punched,' topped up with blackstrap
and dosed themselves with brandy, sang their ribald songs and screamed their insults to God
until the stars wheeled in their courses.
At some time, probably at the beginning of the dinner, the Secretary formally reported the
absence of Henry davenport, The President, equally formally, inflicted his fine. Then they drank
their sherry and sat down to dinner.
One may imagine the decanter of claret or burgundy or Rhenish being pushed round the
table in its Georgian silver coaster-until it came to the empty chair.
Then a ghostly hand, silvery, impermanent in the yellow candle-light, reached out, lifted
the decanter, filled the empty glass-and raised it to the slowly-seen, grinning spectral lips of
Henry Davenport. There he sat, gradually taking shape, in his tarnished regimentals, his powered
wig, sardonically smiling, the first Everlasting to become an Incorporeal Everlasting.
Consider the gasp which went around that suddenly chilled table. The blanched whiteness
of six frightened faces. The stuttering attempts to recapture the old, profane defiance of God and
Then, perhaps, Davenport spoke. Probably he called them, poked fun at them, reminded
them that they had all sworn to turn up each year at the dinner, dead or alive.
And so, said he, here am I, Henry Davenport, one-time Fellow-Commoner of Trinity, for
all time the first Incorporeal Everlasting come to honor my pledge-as you must all do-dead or
alive, each year throughout eternity.
If that were not horrible enough to contemplate, what does one make of that other entry in
the book, on the same date, 2 November in the same year, 1743, for there, boldly written, in his
own unmistakable handwriting at the top of the list, is the signature of 'Alan Dermot, President at the Court of His Royal Highness.'
Now it is an historical fact that the Honorable Alan Dermot was at the Court of Prince
Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, in Paris, in October, 1743. It is equally a fact that
he was killed in a duel in Paris on 28 October-five days before the club met. The news of his
death cannot have reached the Club on the night on which it met and dined, 2 November, for,
under the date 10 November appears this entry: 'This day was reported that the President was
become an Incorporeal by the hands of a French chevalier.' It was followed by a sudden written
gasp from the Secretary, for, in his goose-quill handwriting, he slapped down the unexpected
prayer: 'The Good God shield us from ill.'
Yet how came the President's handwriting, unmistakably his own, to appear at the top of
the list, when the entries of attendance were written down at that dinner of 2 November? In short,
the President must have been there, although dead, in his normal, earthly, human form and
semblance of being. He must have eaten and drunk with them, cracked his wicked jokes, uttered
his profanities, cursed his God and generally behaved as the man whom they all knew-leaving
them to find out later that they had dined not with a living man but with a ghost. That is the sort
of ghastly joke one would expect from Dermot.
The news that they had dined with a dead man, who seemed in every sense to be a live
man, shattered the Club. The five remaining members were paralyzed with fear. They left
Cambridge. They buried themselves on their distant country estates-for most of them were
landed men. The Cambridge doctor tried to banish from his mind the memory of the dead man
sitting at the head of his table, leering and laughing as though alive. Better, far, the pale, halfseen, ethereal wisp in the empty chair that might, or might not have been, Henry Davenport.