Clara Lucas Balfour

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Clara Lucas Balfour (née Lucas; 21 December 1808 – 1878) was an English temperance campaigner, lecturer and author.

Early life[edit]

Clara Lucas was born in the New Forest, Hampshire, on 21 December 1808, the only child of John Lydell Lucas (c.1767–1818), a butcher and cattle dealer from Gosport, and his wife Sarah.[1] Her parents appear to have separated when she was very young (it was later said that John had deceived Sarah into entering into a bigamous marriage), and Clara went to live with her father on the Isle of Wight. Following John's death in 1818, Clara was baptized, and taken by her mother to live in London. The two were not well off, and supported themselves by needlework.[1]

In September 1824, not yet 16, Clara married James Balfour (1796–1884), of the Ways and Means Office in the House of Commons, her new home being in Chelsea.[1]


In October 1837, James Balfour, an alcoholic, took a temperance pledge. Clara then herself took the pledge, a week or so later;[1] this was at the Bible Christians' chapel, a meeting-place close by her house. Having adopted teetotalism, Clara then contacted Jabez Burns in 1840, and became a Baptist convert.[1]

In the period 1837 to 1840, Balfour wrote Common Sense versus Socialism, a tract directed at a local Owenite group.[1] Jane Carlyle called to thank her, and began a friendship. Importantly in practical terms, around this time Balfour also met the campaigner John Dunlop of Gairbraid. He gave her paid editorial work on the Temperance Journal in 1841.[1]

In 1841 (after moving to Maida Hill), Balfour began a career as a temperance lecturer at the Greenwich Literary Institution. She continued the public advocacy of her principles for nearly thirty years. Her lectures were not confined to the temperance topic. She lectured on the influence of woman on society, and kindred subjects; and she held the post for some years of lecturer on belles lettres at a leading ladies' school.


Amongst her wide range of lectures, the following are known.

8 February 1866 at the Southport Town Hall Literary Lectures managed by William Morton. Subject: Henry the Eighth and his Six Wives. The Rev Dr Clarke took the Chair.[2]

Later life[edit]

Mrs. Balfour's last public appearance was at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, in May 1877, when she was elected president of the British Women's Temperance League. She died at Croydon on 3 July 1878, and was buried at the Paddington Cemetery. Rev. Dawson Burns preached her memorial discourse (later published) in the Church Street Chapel, Edgware Road.


Her publications, mostly to advocate temperance, but also with a theological aim, and covering varied topics, had an immense sale, and were very numerous. They were as follows:

  • Moral Heroism (1846)
  • Women of Scripture (1847)
  • Women and the Temperance Movement (1849)
  • A Whisper to the Newly Married (1850) Editor of an 1824 work by Margaret G. Derenzy.[1]
  • Happy Evenings (1851)
  • Sketches of English Literature (1852)
  • Two Christmas Days (1852)
  • Morning Dew Drops, with preface by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1853)
  • Working Women and several short sketches, as "Instructors" of Anna Barbauld, Mrs. Trimmer, Mrs. Sherman, Hannah More and others (1854)
  • Introductory Essay to Ann Taylor's Maternal Solicitude (1855)
  • Bands of Hope (1857)
  • Dr. Lignum's Sliding Scale (1858)
  • Frank's Sunday Coat (1860)
  • Scrub (1860)
  • Toil and Trust (1860)
  • The Victim (1860)
  • The Warning (1860)
  • The Two Homes (1860)
  • Sunbeams for all Seasons (1861)
  • Drift (1861)
  • Uphill Work (1861)
  • Homely Hints on Household Management (1862)
  • Confessions of a Decanter (1862)
  • History of a Shilling (1862)
  • Wanderings of a Bible (1862)
  • A Mother's Sermon (1862)
  • Our Old October (1863)
  • Cousin Bessie (1863)
  • Hope for Number Two (1863)
  • A Little Voice (1863)
  • A Peep out of the Window (1863)
  • Club Night (1864)
  • Troubled Waters (1864)
  • Cruelty and Cowardice (1866)
  • Bible Patterns of Good Women (1867)
  • Ways and Means (1868)
  • Harry Wilson (1870)
  • One by Herself (1872)
  • All but Lost (1873)
  • Ethel's Strange Lodger (1873)
  • Lame Dick's Lantern (1874)
  • Light at last (1874)
  • Women worth Emulating (1877)
  • Home Makers (1878)

Besides these, Lilian's Trial was being published at the time of Balfour's death in The Fireside; Job Tufton appeared in 1882 in the National Temperance publications; and The Burmish Family and The Manor Mystery were other tales brought out posthumously. Of these works several were often reprinted, and the Whisper to the Newly Married reached 23 editions. Balfour contributed many of these shorter tales, in the first instance to the British Workman, 'Day of Days, Hand and Heart, Animal World, Meliora, Family Visitor, Home Words, The Fireside, Band of Hope Review, and the Onward series. Others were issued as Social Science Tracts, and some published by the Scottish and the British Temperance Leagues.


Clara and James Balfour had seven children, of whom four survived to adulthood.[1] One son was Jabez Balfour, later mayor of Croydon, Liberal M.P. for Tamworth, and fraudster. A daughter, Cecile, married Dawson Burns, son of Jabez Burns.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Doern, Kristin G. "Balfour, Clara Lucas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1183.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Southport Independent and Ormskirk Chronicle, 31 January 1866 p.1 The Town Hall Literary Lectures
  3. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, Burns, Dawson (1828–1909), temperance reformer, by Charlotte Fell-Smith. Published 1912.

External links[edit]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Balfour, Clara Lucas". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.