Sir Fran­cis Dash­wood, 2nd Baronet

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting Edward Dashwood -

Al­though more widely known as a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Hell­fire Club, my an­ces­tor is de­picted here as a mem­ber of the Di­van Club, which he founded. To qual­ify, you needed to have vis­ited Con­stantino­ple—con­sid­ered pretty ad­ven­tur­ous in those days—and then have had your­self painted in Ot­toman dress. In­scribed on the re­verse “El Faquir Dash­wood Pasha” and set in a fab­u­lous carved and gilded frame, this por­trait con­jures up all his love of dress­ing up and great hos­pi­tal­ity. I see it vir­tu­ally ev­ery day and it never ceases to bring a smile to my face

In his 1974 his­tory of the 18th­cen­tury phe­nom­e­non The Hell­fire Clubs, Ge­of­frey Ashe drew a par­al­lel with the 1960s hip­pie protest against con­ven­tion, both trace­able to Ra­belais’s 16th-cen­tury Gar­gan­tua and the utopian Abbey of Thélème, its sole rule: ‘Do what thou wilt.’

Cer­tainly, Sir Fran­cis Dash­wood, who didn’t found but sym­bol­ises the Hell­fire Clubs, was at mav­er­ick and rak­ish odds with what he con­sid­ered the smug, philis­tine and cor­rupt Whig es­tab­lish­ment, but lib­erty, for him, meant more than ‘nymphs and hogsheads’ and blas­phe­mous japes

In a long par­lia­men­tary ca­reer, he was a famed or­a­tor, de­fended Ad­mi­ral John Byng and sup­ported American in­de­pen­dence. His po­lit­i­cal ca­reer reached its apogee as Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer in Lord Bute’s short­lived ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Dash­wood in­her­ited his coun­try seat, West Wycombe, Buck­ing­hamshire, his baronetcy and a for­tune at 15. Af­ter Eton, he em­barked on two Grand Tours, dur­ing which he flirted with Ja­co­bitism and Catholi­cism, be­fore trav­el­ling more ad­ven­tur­ously. It was said he se­duced the wife of Peter the Great, dis­guised as the Tsar’s arch-enemy Charles XII of Swe­den, de­spite Charles’s death 15 years ear­lier.

The Di­van Club, which Dash­wood co-founded, met at the Thatched Tav­ern in St James’s Street, Lon­don SW1. Mem­bers wore tur­bans and robes and car­ried dag­gers; Dash­wood’s ti­tle was El Faquir Dash­wood Pasha and the stand­ing toast was ‘the Harem’. Each mem­ber had to do­nate his painted por­trait and the Flem­ish por­traitist Adrien Car­pen­tiers, ac­tive in Eng­land from 1739, obliged.

The So­ci­ety of Dilet­tanti, which also was co-founded by Dash­wood and still ex­tant, is a sim­i­lar club for en­thu­si­asts of Greek and Ro­man art. Car­pen­tiers painted Dash­wood as ‘Pope In­no­cent’.

Sir Fran­cis Dash­wood, 2nd Baronet (1708–81) by Adrien Car­pen­tiers (1739–78), 29¼in by 24¼in, Col­lec­tion Sir Ed­ward Dash­wood, 12th Baronet

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