Jason Diamond provides background on the literary clubs of Victorian England:
The words “Victorian club scene” might lead you to picture the Brontë sisters gyrating wildly against some dandy in a top hat blasting music from behind a steampunk-looking DJ booth, but it was quite the opposite. Gentlemen’s clubs were founded for different types of upper-class and well-connected people, but they generally served the same purpose: for men of high status to chill out and network. People knew what type of person you were by what club you belonged to. They could tell your political affiliation if you were a member of the conservative St. Stephen’s Club, and they knew who you worked for if they saw you entering the East India Club.
Charles Dickens made waves when he left the Garrick Club for the Arts Club in 1863:
As a writer and celebrity, Dickens was one of the few people with the power to give up his membership at such a club, start going to another, and make this new club the destination for other writers and literary hangers-on. … Today we have society types, club promoters, and people Malcolm Gladwell labeled as “connectors.” Dickens was essentially all of those things rolled into one, and also one of the finest writers of his era.
Christopher Tennant compares modern-day clubs here.
(Image of the Reform Club (1841) via Wikimedia Commons)