Convivial Congregations

One of the often-overlooked aspects of #Charleston is the cities extensive social history, and by that I mean social clubs and gatherings. As I tell visitors to the city on my walking tours, Charlestonians have always been very inclined to social events, and have created a wealth of organizations for that purpose. The oldest social group in the city is the St. Andrews Society, founded back in 1729, and although largely a gathering for pleasantries today, like most of these groups, there is a philanthropic purpose. Many historic Charleston societies have charitable functions that are meant to better the community, and some offer stipends and scholarships to the needy and the deserving throughout the city. But the central purpose of each group is for gathering and convivial exchange, and historically whether it was the intellectual pursuits of the Philomathean Society, the musical interests of the Arion Society, or the help offered those of African descent by the Brown Fellowship Society, the pleasantries were always foremost in each meeting agenda. Some of the old societies dies out over the years, and one in particular, the Ugly Club, I would like to see reincarnated. It was purely for fun that 18th century Charleston gentlemen met in this society, with the idea of having laughs with self-deprecating humor. I came across an old poem that was read at each meeting, and although I have edited it somewhat, you will get the drift.

our rumpled hairs and chins that double

flank winged ears and veins that bubble,

with wrinkled necks and pockmarked faces

the fairer sex would nigh embrace us,

our sagging jowls and bulbous lashes

meet with howls in looking glasses,

there is no boasting visage in tatters,

but ugly we toast friendship that matters

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