Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer


Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer

Francis Dashwood, 15th Baron le Despencer (December 1708 – 11 December 1781) was an English rake and politician, Chancellor of the Exchequer (1762–1763) and founder of The Hellfire Club.

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.

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).

The Inkubus Sukkubus song 'Hell-Fire' from the album "Vampyre Erotica" mentions both Sir Francis, the motto "Do What Thou Will", and "Breast of Venus".

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 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanstagi#Tanstagi] (head of Orgasm Research) in Robert Anton Wilson's "The Schrödinger'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.

The character Pleyel in Charles Brockden Brown's 1798 novel Wieland calls the rakish Carwin a "specious seducer Dashwood." [http://books.google.com/books?id=JZj06GGRZCMC&pg=PA141&lpg=PA141&dq=%22specious+seducer+dashwood%22&source=web&ots=tZEjDBpz4O&sig=fJmHI8IAmf2LUnz1csEPdhvURKU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result]

External links

* [http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremyglover/sets/72157603796850610/ The Lives & Times of the Hell-Fire Club]
* [http://www.blather.net/shitegeist/2006/02/the_hellfire_club_tunnels_and.htm Photographs of Dashwood's tunnels in West Wycombe]
* [http://www.blather.net/shitegeist/1998/06/hellfire_francis.htm Francis Dashwood of the English Hellfire Club]

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