The Athenaeum Club on Pall Mall was founded in 1824 as “a meeting place for men who enjoy the life of the mind” with membership limited to 1000.

However, some disastrous experimentation with new-fangled gas lighting in 1832 caused so much damage to the clubhouse that extra funds were needed to carry out the necessary repairs.  To raise those funds, they added 160 “supernumerary” members and brought forward 40 new members from the waiting list.

These forty were dubbed “the forty thieves”, two of whom were Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

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