The Omar Khayyám Club of London was established October 13, 1892, in London by Frederic Hudson, Clement Shorter and George Whale, to find themselves a reason to get together in good company, and to express their common interest in Omar Khayyám, or more precisely, Edward FitzGerald. Justin Huntley McCarthy, known for his own translation of Omar, became the first president of the Club.
Through the years, a number of well known authors and artists were Club members, such as Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne and William Holman Hunt. The club articles read that membership of the Club was limited to 59 members. In an article in The Booklover (vol. 6, nr. 6, 1904), Shorter wrote that anyone who had a name in English letters, was member of the Club.
Two club books were issued, mainly containing verses dedicated to Omar Khayyám or Edward FitzGerald, homages, elegies, membership and guest lists at club dinners, all this illuminated with menucards, designed by a variety of artists. Nothing in these books however hints at the slightest serious interest in Omar and his work.
Apart from these club books, two special editions of the Rubáiyát were issued for members of the Club. The first one was published by Macmillan in 1898, decorated by W.B. MacDougall, and an edition, privately printed at the famous Essex House Press in 1905.
The Omar Khayyam Club of London still exists. Members meet twice a year at a club dinner that follows a strict procedure: a poem is read by one of the members, the artist explains why his menucard design looks the way it does and the chairman has his opening speech. Next a novelty is presented concerning FitzGerald and finally the guests are jeered at in a most agreeable way. In other words, it is probably not as much an Omar Khayyám Club as it is a FitzGerald Club.
Since 2013 the Club has its own website: www.omar-khayyam-club.com (temporarily not available).
- The Book of the Omar Khayyám Club 1892-1910. London, Printed for the members for private circulation, 1901. Of this book, 181 copies were printed.
- The Second Book of the Omar Khayyám Club 1910-1929. London, Printed for the members for private circulation, 1931. Of this book, 125 copies were printed.