Francis Dashwood  

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Image:Hogarth Dashwood.jpg
Portrait of Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer by William Hogarth from the late 1750s, parodying Renaissance images of Francis of Assisi. The bible has been replaced by a copy of the erotic novel Elegantiae Latini sermonis, and the profile of Dashwood's friend Lord Sandwich peers from the halo.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer (December, 1708December 11, 1781) was an English rake and politician, Chancellor of the Exchequer (17621763) and founder of The Hellfire Club and Society of Dilettanti.

He was born in London, and educated at Eton College where he became associated with William Pitt the Elder. Orphaned at age 16, he went on a Grand Tour of Europe in 1726.

Shortly after his return to England, Dashwood founded the Hellfire Club. According to the 1779 book Nocturnal Revels, on the Grand Tour he had visited various religious seminaries, "founded, as it were, in direct contradiction to Nature and Reason; on his return to England, [he] thought that a burlesque Institution in the name of St Francis, would mark the absurdity of such Societies; and in lieu of the austerities and abstemiousness there practised, substitute convivial gaiety, unrestrained hilarity, and social felicity."

For his activities in the Hellfire Club, he was in his day widely regarded as being involved in devil worship.

He was Postmaster General for a period, and during this time corresponded with Benjamin Franklin, his opposite number in the North American colonies. The two — feeling that church services were too long — produced an anonymous Abridgement of the Book of Common Prayer in 1773.

He commissioned West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire. He served as an honorary vice president of London's charitable Foundling Hospital from 1777 until his death.

The Hellfire Club

He leased Medmenham Abbey on the Thames from his friend, Francis Duffield in 1751 and had it rebuilt by the architect Nicholas Revett in the style of the 18th century Gothic revival, at this time, the motto Fait ce que voudras was placed above a doorway in stained glass, and it is thought that Hogarth may have executed murals for this building; none, however, survive.

The first meeting of the group known vatiously as Brotherhood of St. Francis of Wycombe, Order of Knights of West Wycombe was held at Sir Francis' family home in West Wycombe on Walpurgis Night in 1752.

According to the 1779 book Nocturnal Revels, on the Grand Tour he had visited various religious seminaries, "founded, as it were, in direct contradiction to Nature and Reason; on his return to England, [he] thought that a burlesque Institution in the name of St Francis, would mark the absurdity of such Societies; and in lieu of the austerities and abstemiousness there practised, substitute convivial gaiety, unrestrained hilarity, and social felicity."

The initial meeting was something of a failure and the club subsequently moved their meetings to Medmenham Abbey (about 6 miles from West Wycombe) where they called themselves the Monks of Medmenham.

For his activities in the Hellfire Club, he was in his day widely regarded as being involved in devil worship.

Fictional references

In The Illuminatus! Trilogy Dashwood is mentioned as one of the original five leaders of the Illuminati.

Dashwood's ghost appeared in the "Warped Notions" arc in the comic book Hellblazer and was later summoned and torn apart by John Constantine's children in the arc "Reasons to Be Cheerful".

Sir Francis Dashwood receives a name check from Vivian Stanshall at the end of side two of the original recording of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, as found in the "Mike Oldfield Boxed" collection (Virgin Records - CDBOX1).

Sir Francis Dashwood is a character in the anime "Le Chevalier D'Eon." In the series, he is the leader of a powerful cult - the Revolutionary Order - that seeks to manipulate Europeon powers using magical powers latent in the biblical Book of Psalms. The fictitious cult is based in Medmenham Abbey, Medmenham, England.

Francis Dashwood also appears as Dr. Frank Dashwood (head of Orgasm Research) in Robert Anton Wilson's "The Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy".

Sir Francis Dashwood is a character in the Regency Mystery "Suspense and Sensibility," by Carrie Bebris. In the novel, he is related to the Dashwood family of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."

Sir Francis Dashwood is a character in the short story "Hellfire at Twilight" by Kage Baker; the story is part of Baker's The Company series. In the story he unwittingly interacts with the Preserver Lewis, a recurring character in Company stories.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Francis Dashwood" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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