Joining the Club

Dil 1572Cara/Andrea here,
What is it about men and clubs? Honestly, throughout history, women have often been accused of being overly fond of gathering together under the guise of useful occupations—sewing, washing, cooking—or social etiquette when what they really want to do is to gossip over refreshments.

Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that men are, in fact,  even more guilty of enjoying “a good coze.” You have only to look at the Georgian and Regency eras, and the proliferation of gentlemen’s clubs formed during those times. Now, the men will claim that that they gathered for serious political talk, or high-minded intellectual and cultural conversations, but we know better. White’s,
220px-Sir_Joseph_Banks_when_Mr_BanksBoodles, the Royal Society . . . I grant you that serious subjects were no doubt discussed within their walls. But over the course of my research, I’ve come to the conclusion that equally important  was to act silly and get sloshed with their friends. (Just think of the Hellfire Club and the Four-In-Hand Club)

What got me to thinking of this was a recent article I read on the Society of Dilettanti, which was formed in 1734 by a group of wealthy aristocrats who had been on the Grand Tour. Their purpose was to promote the study of ancient Greek and Roman art, as well as to encourage new art in the classical style. Very noble ideals, indeed—but here is Horace Walpole’s opinion of them in 1743:

“. . . a club, for which the nominal qualification is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk . . .”

Dil 5576Early accounts do seem to show a penchant for revelry and bawdy humor, as well as serious scholarship. From the beginning, artists figured prominently in the group—Sir Joshua Reynolds was one of the early members—and their depiction of club activities show a decided sense of humor. To whit, there is a very famous painting by Reynolds showing Sir William Hamilton pointing to a Greek vase, as if lecturing to seven of his fellow Dilettanti on the nuances of art. However, according to current member Richard Dorment, if you look closely, you will see that “ . . . Hamilton isn't aware of it, but  his colleagues are actually raising their glasses to a lady's garter that has been produced for general inspection by the fellow standing at the left.” Dorment also points out that in most paintings from that era, you will notice copious amounts of wine very much in evidence.”

220px-Bourchier_Wray_by_George_Knapton One of the early Dilettantis, painter George Knapton, did a series of portraits depicting his fellow members in various exotic costumes—usually with wine much in evidence. So it’s clear that these august, erudite nobles and scholars definitely liked to party!

But that said, the Society did do more than drink and enjoy lewd jokes. (There is another painting showing a member looking at an classical jewel while making a suggestive gesture indicating the female sex. Again, according to Dorment, “ . . . among the ancient gems that we know circulated among the Dilettanti was at least one cameo carved with a Dionysian orgy ‘not fit for a lady’.”) It
Dil 2573was the Dilettanti who first promoted the idea of a public academy for the arts, which resulted in the Royal Academy. They also funded travel for scholars to view ancient art as well as archeological expeditions which helped define the understanding of Greek and Roman art. Their publication, the Ionian Antiquities, which was a major influence in shaping the style of Neoclassicism in Great Britain.

Dil 3574The Society’s link to the arts has remained strong throughout the centuries. (Aside from the frivolities, they have been an influential patron of the arts since their inception through today.) Notable painters who were Dilettanti members included Thomas Lawrence, Frederic Leighton, John Singer Sargent. David Hockney, one of my favorite modern painters, is currently among the 60 members. And the Dilettanti are still going strong in supporting classical study. They help fund the British Schools in Rome and Athens, as well as traveling scholarships for the study of antiquities.

Dil 4575Dilittanti derives from the Latin word dilettare, which means “to take delight.” It seems that the Society has, right from the start, taken delight in both scholarship and fun. I have to say, I raise my glass to them! (If you want to read Richard Dorment’s delightful article on the Society, you can link to it here.)

So, do you belong to a club? If so, what sorts of things do you enjoy doing together? At my university club, I’m on the library and arts committee, and we organize a lot of very interesting lectures, among other things. Just last week, I heard one of the foremost experts on First Amendment rights lecture on privacy and the press. Then we all went down to the bar and gossiped over copious glasses of wine!

50 thoughts on “Joining the Club”

  1. I belonged to a number of clubs when I was in college and grad school. Most of them were musical honor societies and the like. We did recitals and lecture recitals and the best part was usually the reception afterwards – lots of good food, good drink and good conversation.
    When I lived in Germany I joined a literary society. There were lectures and readings, a great deal of food and a great deal of lively discussion about the works of German poets and authors. I do miss it.

    Reply
  2. I belonged to a number of clubs when I was in college and grad school. Most of them were musical honor societies and the like. We did recitals and lecture recitals and the best part was usually the reception afterwards – lots of good food, good drink and good conversation.
    When I lived in Germany I joined a literary society. There were lectures and readings, a great deal of food and a great deal of lively discussion about the works of German poets and authors. I do miss it.

    Reply
  3. I belonged to a number of clubs when I was in college and grad school. Most of them were musical honor societies and the like. We did recitals and lecture recitals and the best part was usually the reception afterwards – lots of good food, good drink and good conversation.
    When I lived in Germany I joined a literary society. There were lectures and readings, a great deal of food and a great deal of lively discussion about the works of German poets and authors. I do miss it.

    Reply
  4. I belonged to a number of clubs when I was in college and grad school. Most of them were musical honor societies and the like. We did recitals and lecture recitals and the best part was usually the reception afterwards – lots of good food, good drink and good conversation.
    When I lived in Germany I joined a literary society. There were lectures and readings, a great deal of food and a great deal of lively discussion about the works of German poets and authors. I do miss it.

    Reply
  5. I belonged to a number of clubs when I was in college and grad school. Most of them were musical honor societies and the like. We did recitals and lecture recitals and the best part was usually the reception afterwards – lots of good food, good drink and good conversation.
    When I lived in Germany I joined a literary society. There were lectures and readings, a great deal of food and a great deal of lively discussion about the works of German poets and authors. I do miss it.

    Reply
  6. Thanks for sharing, Louisa. Discussions, concerts, reading—-they do inspire ideas and stimulate thought! And the convivial enjoyment of food and drink is a wonderful source of good cheer, too, Sharing interests and interacting is a huge part of learning.

    Reply
  7. Thanks for sharing, Louisa. Discussions, concerts, reading—-they do inspire ideas and stimulate thought! And the convivial enjoyment of food and drink is a wonderful source of good cheer, too, Sharing interests and interacting is a huge part of learning.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for sharing, Louisa. Discussions, concerts, reading—-they do inspire ideas and stimulate thought! And the convivial enjoyment of food and drink is a wonderful source of good cheer, too, Sharing interests and interacting is a huge part of learning.

    Reply
  9. Thanks for sharing, Louisa. Discussions, concerts, reading—-they do inspire ideas and stimulate thought! And the convivial enjoyment of food and drink is a wonderful source of good cheer, too, Sharing interests and interacting is a huge part of learning.

    Reply
  10. Thanks for sharing, Louisa. Discussions, concerts, reading—-they do inspire ideas and stimulate thought! And the convivial enjoyment of food and drink is a wonderful source of good cheer, too, Sharing interests and interacting is a huge part of learning.

    Reply
  11. The culture of clubs is alive and well in Hong Kong. I was not a member myself as I lived there only temporarily, but for permanent residents it has a lot of advantages. A friend of mine was a member of the Ladies’ Recreation Club, which started out for women only, and is now for men too; I particularly enjoyed their Indian dishes. The exclusive Hong Kong Club was originally only for men; women can now be members, but there is a very long waiting list and fees are very high.
    The HK Jockey Club has some very nice facilities outside the city center; I spent some lovely times with friends at Beas River, a kind of country club, where members keep their horses. There is also a nice park and pool and restaurant.
    I was a member of a Golf Club in Harare, but on the whole, despite so often enjoying the hospitality of friends who are club members, as a continental European I am not much for joining clubs. The whole idea of keeping out the hoi polloi and blackballing undesirable candidates is somehow undemocratic and a bit off-putting.

    Reply
  12. The culture of clubs is alive and well in Hong Kong. I was not a member myself as I lived there only temporarily, but for permanent residents it has a lot of advantages. A friend of mine was a member of the Ladies’ Recreation Club, which started out for women only, and is now for men too; I particularly enjoyed their Indian dishes. The exclusive Hong Kong Club was originally only for men; women can now be members, but there is a very long waiting list and fees are very high.
    The HK Jockey Club has some very nice facilities outside the city center; I spent some lovely times with friends at Beas River, a kind of country club, where members keep their horses. There is also a nice park and pool and restaurant.
    I was a member of a Golf Club in Harare, but on the whole, despite so often enjoying the hospitality of friends who are club members, as a continental European I am not much for joining clubs. The whole idea of keeping out the hoi polloi and blackballing undesirable candidates is somehow undemocratic and a bit off-putting.

    Reply
  13. The culture of clubs is alive and well in Hong Kong. I was not a member myself as I lived there only temporarily, but for permanent residents it has a lot of advantages. A friend of mine was a member of the Ladies’ Recreation Club, which started out for women only, and is now for men too; I particularly enjoyed their Indian dishes. The exclusive Hong Kong Club was originally only for men; women can now be members, but there is a very long waiting list and fees are very high.
    The HK Jockey Club has some very nice facilities outside the city center; I spent some lovely times with friends at Beas River, a kind of country club, where members keep their horses. There is also a nice park and pool and restaurant.
    I was a member of a Golf Club in Harare, but on the whole, despite so often enjoying the hospitality of friends who are club members, as a continental European I am not much for joining clubs. The whole idea of keeping out the hoi polloi and blackballing undesirable candidates is somehow undemocratic and a bit off-putting.

    Reply
  14. The culture of clubs is alive and well in Hong Kong. I was not a member myself as I lived there only temporarily, but for permanent residents it has a lot of advantages. A friend of mine was a member of the Ladies’ Recreation Club, which started out for women only, and is now for men too; I particularly enjoyed their Indian dishes. The exclusive Hong Kong Club was originally only for men; women can now be members, but there is a very long waiting list and fees are very high.
    The HK Jockey Club has some very nice facilities outside the city center; I spent some lovely times with friends at Beas River, a kind of country club, where members keep their horses. There is also a nice park and pool and restaurant.
    I was a member of a Golf Club in Harare, but on the whole, despite so often enjoying the hospitality of friends who are club members, as a continental European I am not much for joining clubs. The whole idea of keeping out the hoi polloi and blackballing undesirable candidates is somehow undemocratic and a bit off-putting.

    Reply
  15. The culture of clubs is alive and well in Hong Kong. I was not a member myself as I lived there only temporarily, but for permanent residents it has a lot of advantages. A friend of mine was a member of the Ladies’ Recreation Club, which started out for women only, and is now for men too; I particularly enjoyed their Indian dishes. The exclusive Hong Kong Club was originally only for men; women can now be members, but there is a very long waiting list and fees are very high.
    The HK Jockey Club has some very nice facilities outside the city center; I spent some lovely times with friends at Beas River, a kind of country club, where members keep their horses. There is also a nice park and pool and restaurant.
    I was a member of a Golf Club in Harare, but on the whole, despite so often enjoying the hospitality of friends who are club members, as a continental European I am not much for joining clubs. The whole idea of keeping out the hoi polloi and blackballing undesirable candidates is somehow undemocratic and a bit off-putting.

    Reply
  16. I think clubs are an excellent way of gathering together people of similar interests and temperaments. We probably should have more of them.
    As you say, there were loads in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of them started out in coffee houses, which were general meeting places but soon developed different clienteles.
    Odd, in a way, because as best I know they didn’t drink booze in coffee houses. Probably why so many spun off into clubs!
    Jo

    Reply
  17. I think clubs are an excellent way of gathering together people of similar interests and temperaments. We probably should have more of them.
    As you say, there were loads in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of them started out in coffee houses, which were general meeting places but soon developed different clienteles.
    Odd, in a way, because as best I know they didn’t drink booze in coffee houses. Probably why so many spun off into clubs!
    Jo

    Reply
  18. I think clubs are an excellent way of gathering together people of similar interests and temperaments. We probably should have more of them.
    As you say, there were loads in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of them started out in coffee houses, which were general meeting places but soon developed different clienteles.
    Odd, in a way, because as best I know they didn’t drink booze in coffee houses. Probably why so many spun off into clubs!
    Jo

    Reply
  19. I think clubs are an excellent way of gathering together people of similar interests and temperaments. We probably should have more of them.
    As you say, there were loads in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of them started out in coffee houses, which were general meeting places but soon developed different clienteles.
    Odd, in a way, because as best I know they didn’t drink booze in coffee houses. Probably why so many spun off into clubs!
    Jo

    Reply
  20. I think clubs are an excellent way of gathering together people of similar interests and temperaments. We probably should have more of them.
    As you say, there were loads in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of them started out in coffee houses, which were general meeting places but soon developed different clienteles.
    Odd, in a way, because as best I know they didn’t drink booze in coffee houses. Probably why so many spun off into clubs!
    Jo

    Reply
  21. Other than in college, I’ve never been much of a club joiner. By virtue of having been on of three women in an all male unit, I can verify that men gossip more than women do.

    Reply
  22. Other than in college, I’ve never been much of a club joiner. By virtue of having been on of three women in an all male unit, I can verify that men gossip more than women do.

    Reply
  23. Other than in college, I’ve never been much of a club joiner. By virtue of having been on of three women in an all male unit, I can verify that men gossip more than women do.

    Reply
  24. Other than in college, I’ve never been much of a club joiner. By virtue of having been on of three women in an all male unit, I can verify that men gossip more than women do.

    Reply
  25. Other than in college, I’ve never been much of a club joiner. By virtue of having been on of three women in an all male unit, I can verify that men gossip more than women do.

    Reply
  26. Maria, There is, of course, an unfortunate downside to certain clubs in that sense of exclusion or snobbery. But there are many clubs that welcome those with shared interests, and the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation is a wonderful benefit, IMO.

    Reply
  27. Maria, There is, of course, an unfortunate downside to certain clubs in that sense of exclusion or snobbery. But there are many clubs that welcome those with shared interests, and the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation is a wonderful benefit, IMO.

    Reply
  28. Maria, There is, of course, an unfortunate downside to certain clubs in that sense of exclusion or snobbery. But there are many clubs that welcome those with shared interests, and the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation is a wonderful benefit, IMO.

    Reply
  29. Maria, There is, of course, an unfortunate downside to certain clubs in that sense of exclusion or snobbery. But there are many clubs that welcome those with shared interests, and the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation is a wonderful benefit, IMO.

    Reply
  30. Maria, There is, of course, an unfortunate downside to certain clubs in that sense of exclusion or snobbery. But there are many clubs that welcome those with shared interests, and the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation is a wonderful benefit, IMO.

    Reply
  31. What about book clubs? I have been getting together about eight times a year with a dozen women for seven years now. The purpose is ostensibly to discuss a different book each time, but food and drink have become more and more prominent as time has passed.

    Reply
  32. What about book clubs? I have been getting together about eight times a year with a dozen women for seven years now. The purpose is ostensibly to discuss a different book each time, but food and drink have become more and more prominent as time has passed.

    Reply
  33. What about book clubs? I have been getting together about eight times a year with a dozen women for seven years now. The purpose is ostensibly to discuss a different book each time, but food and drink have become more and more prominent as time has passed.

    Reply
  34. What about book clubs? I have been getting together about eight times a year with a dozen women for seven years now. The purpose is ostensibly to discuss a different book each time, but food and drink have become more and more prominent as time has passed.

    Reply
  35. What about book clubs? I have been getting together about eight times a year with a dozen women for seven years now. The purpose is ostensibly to discuss a different book each time, but food and drink have become more and more prominent as time has passed.

    Reply
  36. Sarah, I think book clubs are an absolutely wonderful creation. It’s the same concept that is the essence of what a great club should be—intellectual stimulation, along with the bonding of friends through shared laughter and over food and drink.

    Reply
  37. Sarah, I think book clubs are an absolutely wonderful creation. It’s the same concept that is the essence of what a great club should be—intellectual stimulation, along with the bonding of friends through shared laughter and over food and drink.

    Reply
  38. Sarah, I think book clubs are an absolutely wonderful creation. It’s the same concept that is the essence of what a great club should be—intellectual stimulation, along with the bonding of friends through shared laughter and over food and drink.

    Reply
  39. Sarah, I think book clubs are an absolutely wonderful creation. It’s the same concept that is the essence of what a great club should be—intellectual stimulation, along with the bonding of friends through shared laughter and over food and drink.

    Reply
  40. Sarah, I think book clubs are an absolutely wonderful creation. It’s the same concept that is the essence of what a great club should be—intellectual stimulation, along with the bonding of friends through shared laughter and over food and drink.

    Reply

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