By: John Overholt
March 8, 2017

One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.


"A literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds's", engraved by D. George Thompson after James William Edmund Doyle, 1851. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
“A literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s”, engraved by D. George Thompson after James William Edmund Doyle, 1851. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

If the essence of cool is having enough confidence in your coolness that you don’t have to show it off, how cool is it to gather some of the best minds of 18th century Britain together for dinner and call it simply The Club? Among the nine founding members of The Club are some of the greatest names of the era: Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Oliver Goldsmith. (There’s also the less weighty but incredibly fun-to-say name Topham Beauclerk.)

The Club met weekly for dinner and conversation at the Turk’s Head Tavern in Soho, London, and provided companionship for the long-widowed Johnson, who was every bit as much a great talker as he was a great writer. Johnson sought members of such quality that if only any two of them turned up to dinner they would find each other’s company sufficient entertainment for the evening. But one early choice, the author Sir John Hawkins, feuded so intensely with Burke that Johnson coined the adjective “unclubbable” to describe him, and booted him from the group. Hawkins forgot the first (and second) rule of The Club: No fighting.

Johnson ruled new admissions with an iron fist as well, keeping his longtime friend David Garrick out for several years when Garrick had the temerity to say that he would agree to join without first having been asked. Even if you passed Johnson’s muster, he never let you forget who was top dog. Goldsmith once argued for new members to be admitted, saying “There can now be nothing new among us; we have traveled over one another’s minds.” Johnson icily replied, “Sir, you have not traveled over my mind, I promise you.”

The Club did not quite live up to its motto “Esto Perpetua” (Let it be perpetual) but it lasted into the 20th century. In 1911, Winston Churchill was blackballed for membership in The Club, and took the only remaining option open to him.

He founded The Other Club.


#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Anthony Miller on TBD | Luc Sante on THE BOUZINGOS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Mimi Lipson on TBD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Cintra Wilson on TBD | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACK LIPS PERFORMANCE CULT | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | TBD on TBD | Gary Panter on TBD | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Molly Wright Steenson on TBD | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Anshuman Idamsetty on TBD | Jenny Offill on TBD | Kio Stark on TBD | Douglas Rushkoff on TBD | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Anindita Basu Sempere on TBD | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | TBD on TBD.


#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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