Jabez: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Scoundrel by David McKie - review by Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor

The Fraudulent Philanthropist

Jabez: The Rise and Fall of a Victorian Scoundrel


Atlantic Books 208pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

IT IS ALMOST as dangerous to write about loveable rogues as it is to get to know them. Hypocrisy can be hypnotic: it is hard not to feel for the ardent temperance campaigner when the police cart away his secret stash of thirty-year old clarets and expensive champagne. There is even some who thing endearing about the Toad-of- Toad-Hallish aplomb with which Jabez Spencer Balfour, the teetotal owner of such an impressive cellar share and the subject of this biography, offered members of the Burnlev Literary and Scientdic Club a boat trip on the Thames. The trip was organised by J Spencer Balfour MP, followed by lunch at the home of J Spencer Balfour, then dinner, hosted by J Spencer Balfour.

Balfour was a Victorian philanthropist, financier, Member of Parliament and fraudster - the Robert Maxwell of his day, as Jabez: author David McKie suggests. It is easy to forget that behind the jovial bombast, the appealing swagger and the expansive self-esteem of such a man there normally beats a heart

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