Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: The Everlasting Club
Author: Arthur Gray
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605771.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to

The Everlasting Club
Arthur Gray

There is a chamber in Jesus College the existence of which is
probably known to few who are now resident, and fewer still have
penetrated into it or even seen its interior. It is on the right hand
of the landing on the top floor of the precipitous staircase which for
some forgotten story connected with it is traditionally called "Cow
Lane." The padlock which secures its massive oaken door is very rarely
unfastened, for the room is bare and unfurnished. Once it served as a
place of deposit for superfluous kitchen ware, but even that
ignominious use has passed from it, and it is now left to undisturbed
solitude and darkness. For I should say that it is entirely cut off
from the light of the outer day by the walling up, some time in the
eighteenth century, of its single window, and such light as ever
reaches it comes from the door, when rare occasion causes it to be

Yet at no extraordinarily remote day this chamber has evidently ben
tenanted, and, before it was given up to the darkness, was comfortably
fitted, according to the standard of comfort which was known in
college in the days of George II. There is still a roomy fireplace
before which legs have been stretched and wine and gossip have
circulated in the days of wigs and brocade. For the room is spacious
and, when it was lighted by the window looking eastward over the
fields and common, it must have been a cheerful place for the sociable

Let me state in brief, prosaic outline the circumstances which
account for the gloom and solitude in which this room has remained now
for nearly a century and a half.

In the second quarter of the eighteenth century the University
possessed a great variety of clubs of a social kind. There were clubs
in college parlours and clubs in private rooms, or in inns and coffee-
houses: clubs flavoured with politics, clubs clerical, clubs
purporting to be learned and literary. Whatever their professed
particularity, the aim of each was convivial. Some of them, which
included undergraduates as well as seniors, were dissipated enough,
and in their limited provincial way aped the profligacy of such clubs
as the Hell Fire Club of London notoriety.

Among these last was one which was at once more select and of more
evil fame than any of its fellows. By a singular accident, presently
to be explained, the Minute Book of this Club, including the years
from 1738 to 1766, came into the hands of the Master of Jesus College,
and though, so far as I am aware, it is no longer extant, I have
before me a transcript of it which, though it is in a recent
handwriting, presents in a bald shape such a singular array of facts
that I must ask you to accept them as veracious. The original book is
described as a stout duodecimo volume bound in red leather and
fastened with red silken strings. The writing in it occupied some 40
pages, and ended with the date November 2, 1766.

The Club in question was called the Everlasting Club--a name
sufficiently explained by its rules, set forth in the pocket--book.
Its number was limited to seven, and it would seem that its members
were all young men, between 22 and 30. One of them was a Fellow-
Commoner of Trinity: three of them were Fellows of Colleges, among
whom I should especially mention a Fellow of Jesus, named Charles
Bellasis: another was a landed proprietor in the county, and the sixth
was a young Cambridge physician. The Founder and President of the Club
was the Honorable Alan Dermot, who, as the son of an Irish peer, had
obtained a nobleman's degree in the University, and lived in idleness
in the town. Very little is known of his life and character, but that
little is highly in his disfavor. He was killed in a duel in Paris in
the year 1743, under circumstances which I need not particularise, but
which point to an exceptional degree of cruelty and wickedness in the
slain man.

I will quote from the first page of the Minute Book some of the laws
of the Club, which will explain its constitution:---

"1. This Society consisteth of seven Everlastings, who may be
Corporeal or Incorporeal, as Destiny may determined.

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 President, shall be
the Secretary of the Society, and in the 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 ten o'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 shall 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 least, shall meet and record in
writing in these Minutes that it is their desire that no entertainment
be given in that year, then, notwithstanding the two rules rehearsed,
there shall be no entertainment in that year, and no Everlasting shall
be mulcted on the ground of his absence."

The rest of the rules are either too profane or too puerile to be
quoted here. They indicate the extraordinary levity with which the
members entered on their preposterous obligations. In particular, to
the omission of any regulation as to the transmission of the Minute
Book after the last Everlasting ceased to be "Corporeal," we owe the
accident that it fell into the hands of one who was not a member of
the society, and the consequent preservation of its contents to the
present day.

Low as was the standard of morals in all classes of the University
in the first half of the eighteenth century, the flagrant defiance of
public decorum by the members of the Everlasting Society brought upon
it the stern censure of the authorities, and after a few years it was
practically dissolved and its members banished from the University.
Charles Bellasis, for instance, was obliged to leave the college, and,
though he retained his fellowship, he remained absent from it for
nearly twenty years. But the minutes of the society reveal a more
terrible reason for its virtual extinction.

Between the years of 7138 and 1743 the minutes record many meetings
of the Club, for it met on other occasions besides that of All Souls
Day. Apart from a great deal of impious jocularity on the part of the
writers, they are limited to the formal record of the attendance of
the members, fines inflicted, and so forth, The meeting on November
2nd in the latter year is the first about which there is any departure
from the stereotyped forms. The supper was given in the house of the
physician. One member, Henry Davenport, the former Fellow-Commoner of
Trinity, was absent from the entertainment, as he was then serving in
Germany, in the Dettingen campaign. The minutes contain an entry,
"Mulctatus propter absentiam per Presidentem, Hen. Davenport." An
entry on the next page of the book runs, "Henry Davenport by a cannon-
shot became an Incorporeal Member, November 3, 1743."

The minute give in their handwriting, under date November 2, the
names and addresses of the six other members. First in the list, in a
large bold hand, is the autograph of "Alan Dermot, President, at the
Court of His Royal Highness." Now in October Dermot had certainly been
in attendance on the Young Pretender at Paris, and doubtless the
address which he gave was understood at the time by the other
Everlastings to refer to the fact. But on October 28, five days before
the meeting of the Club, he was killed, as I have already mentioned,
in a duel. The news of his death cannot have reached Cambridge on
November 2, for the Secretary's record of it is placed below that of
Davenport, and with the date of November 10: "this day was reported
that the president was become an Incorporeal by the hands of a french
chevalier." And in a sudden ebullition, which is in glaring contrast
with his previous profanities, he has dashed down, "The Good God
shield us from ill."

The tidings of the President's death scattered the Everlastings like
a thunderbolt. They left Cambridge and buried themselves in widely
parted regions. But the Club did not cease to exist. The Secretary was
still bound to his hateful records: the five survivors did not dare to
neglect their fatal obligations. Horror of the presence of the
President made the November gathering once and for ever impossible:
but the horror, too, forbade them to neglect the meeting in October of
every year to put in writing their objection to the celebration. For
five years five names are appended to that entry in the minutes, and
that is all the business of the Club. Then another member died, who
was not the Secretary.

For eighteen more years four miserable men met once each year to
deliver the same formal protest. During those years we gather from the
signatures that Charles Bellasis returned to Cambridge, now, to
appearance, chastened and decorous. He occupied the rooms which I have
described on the staircase on the corner of the cloister.

Then in 1766 comes a new handwriting and an altered minute: "Jan.
27, on this day Francis Witherington, Secretary, became an incorporeal
member. The same day this Book was delivered to me, James Harvey."
Harvey lived only a month, and a similar entry on March 7 states that
the book has descended, with the same mysterious celerity, to William
Catherton. Then, on May 18, Charles Bellasis writes that on that day,
being the day of Catherton's decease, the Minute Book has come to him
as the last surviving Corporeal of the Club.

As it is my purpose to record fact only I shall not attempt to
describe the feelings of the unhappy Secretary when he penned that
fatal record. When Witherington died it must have come home to the
three survivors that after twenty-three years' intermission the
ghastly entertainment must be annually renewed, with the addition of
fresh incorporeal guests, or that they must undergo the pitiless
censure of the President. I think it likely that the terror of the
alternative, coupled with the mysterious delivery of the Minute Book,
was answerable for the speedy decease of the first two successors to
the Secretaryship. Now that the alternative was offered to Bellasis
alone, he was firmly resolved to bear the consequences, whatever they
might be, of an infringement of the Club rules.

The graceless days of George II. had passed away from the
University. They were succeeded by times of outward respectability,
when religion and morals were no longer publicly challenged. With
Bellasis, too, the petulance of youth had passed: he was discreet,
perhaps exemplary. The scandal of his early conduct was unknown to
most of the new generation, condoned by the few survivors who had
witnessed it.

On the night of November 2nd, 1766, a terrible event revived in the
older inhabitants of the College the memory of those evil days. From
ten o'clock to midnight a hideous uproar went on in the chamber of
Bellasis. Who were his companions none knew. Blasphemous outcries and
ribald songs, such as had not been heard for twenty years past,
aroused from sleep or study the occupants of the court; but among the
voices was not that of Bellasis. At twelve a sudden silence fell upon
the cloisters. But the Master lay awake all night, troubled at the
relapse of a respected colleague and the horrible example of
libertinism set to his pupils.

In the morning all remained quiet about Bellasis' chamber. When his
door was opened, soon after daybreak, the early light creeping through
the drawn curtains revealed a strange scene. About the table were
drawn seven chairs, but some of them had been overthrown, and the
furniture was in chaotic disorder, as after some wild orgy. In the
chair at the foot of the table sat the lifeless figure of the
Secretary, his head bent over his folded arms, as though he would
shield his eyes from some horrible sight. Before him on the table lay
pen, ink and the red Minute Book. On the last inscribed page, under
the date of November 2nd, were written, for the first time since 1742,
the autographs of the seven members of the Everlasting Club, but
without address. In the same strong hand in which the President's name
was written there was appended below the signatures the note "Mulctus
per Presidentem propter neglectum obsonii, Car. Bellasis."

The Minute Book was secured by the Master of the College and I
believe that he alone was acquainted with the nature of its contents.
The scandal reflected on the College by the circumstances revealed in
it caused him to keep the knowledge rigidly to himself. But some
suspicion of the nature of the occurrences must have percolated to
students and servants, for there was a long-abiding belief in the
College that annually on the night of November 2 sounds of unholy
revelry were heard to issue from the chamber of Charles Bellasis. I
cannot learn that the occupants of the adjoining rooms have ever been
disturbed by them. Indeed, it is plain from the minutes that owing to
their improvident drafting no provision was made for the perpetuation
of the All Souls entertainment after the last Everlasting ceased to
Corporeal. Such superstitious belief must be treated with contemptuous
incredulity. But whether for that cause of another the rooms were shut
up, and have remained tenantless from that day to this.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia