There are at least two genuine snark clubs. Perhaps the oldest, and certainly the most famous, is The Snark Club, founded in 1934 at the University of Cambridge. However, that society is not (at least now, anyway) a secret society and has become quite public in their activities, inviting the public to apply to attend one of their annual meetings, though how often such an invitation is extended is unknown to me. They even have a website (www.snark.com) in case you might like to apply. They recently posted a group photograph of those in attendance at the 2013 annual meeting. One person of note in the photograph is Dr Selwyn H. Goodacre (first row on the left-hand corner), the world’s foremost textual authority on the Alice books and author or editor of many articles and books about Charles Dodgson and his works, including The Hunting of the Snark.
The other functioning English snark club (The Universal Snark Club; TUSC) attempts to remain more-or-less secret, but in spite of their vows of secrecy some of their activities have become known (or at least rumored). The TUSC meets annually at Christ Church in Oxford.
Both of these English clubs have only ten members at any given time; each assigned a name of one of the crewmen from the poem. Their chairman (Captain, in this sense) is designated “The Bellman”. At each meeting someone (or perhaps more than one) typically makes (or procures) in a very limited number something related to snarks (usually of an original or creative nature) to be distributed to those in attendance as a keepsake or memento. These are understandably rare, since they were produced in very limited editions and usually enter the private Carroll collections of most of those in attendance. They are prized collector’s items, only rarely (if ever) appearing on the market. For example, I have never seen one of these keepsakes offered on eBay, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have never appeared. One particularly clever and funny item by the late Alan White, Report of an Investigation / into Bellman Enterprises’ Snark Safari, written for the TUSC’s 1996 meeting, was published in 2011 for members of The Lewis Carroll Society and The Lewis Carroll Society of North America.
Unlike the Cambridge Snark Club, the Oxford club is not open to the public and those in attendance are by invitation only, though some members are known to be accompanied by their spouses, so there will typically be more than ten people in attendance.
At one time there was a West Coast Chapter of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA), founded by Dr Sandor G. Burstein, a prominent Carroll collector. However, as far as I know, there was never an organized snark club associated with the West Coast Chapter. The snark society described in this book is fictitious. Further, there is no actual American Lewis Carroll Society.
Unlike the infamous Victorian-era “Cannibal Club” founded by Sir Richard Burton (see Wikipedia for a brief description), there has never been so much as a hint of anything outrageous, deviant or criminal happening during a meeting of a snark club. That may be disappointing to some of you. Hopefully, this present violent tale will make up for that unfortunate fact.
For those of you who are interested in such things, an earlier unillustrated version of this tale was originally published privately in a very limited edition for private distribution in 2000 as one of three stories in what I refer to as my “Millennium Snark Trilogy”, under the title “SNARK! A Murderous Agony in Eight Fits”. This present publication is the third in the trilogy, the other two (Snarkmaster” and Atchafalaya Boojum”) having already been published by Evertype.
Byron W. Sewell