The Cannibal Club: Racism and Rabble-Rousing in Victorian England | The Smithsonian Magazine
Cannibal Club members were culture-warriors. They were generally sympathetic to all religions yet loyal to none. They were unapologetic hedonists and scientific racists. They exhibited an unbridled interest in the various expressions of human sexuality and saw sexual repression as a national crisis.
A fantastic piece on a London secret society which boasted members straight out of the roster of most prominent Victorians. It’s also another great example of the vast wealth of knowledge Western society has accrued through horrific means. For quite some time, Burton’s translation of One Thousand and One Nights was the only way to read the text in English, thus providing an incredible service to world literature, but as the article mentions, he also infiltrated the Kaaba (generally described as Islam’s holiest site and strictly forbidden to non-Muslims) in disguise and when a young boy discovered him, he lured him into an alleyway and slit the boy’s throat without a second thought. Every member of the Cannibal Club is so interesting in their own right, and this article gives the perfect teaser for its most prominent figures.
Secret socieities were all the rage in Victorian England, though far more so in the public imagination than in practice. There were constant suspicions and writings about anarchist groups rising up and hatching domestic terrorism plots, pseudo-religious societies silently manipulating governments unseen, and more. In practice, they were much more like the Cannibal Club, which focused on “the production and distribution of colonialist pornography for their circle and other elite consumers.”