Cornhill Magazine,  10 (1864), 1–32.

Brother Jacob

[George Eliot]


Short Fiction


Mental Illness, Psychology, Nutrition

    When David Faux (alias Edward Freely) attempts to manipulate his simple-minded brother Jacob with various threats and promises, the mordant and cynical narrator notes that David, 'not having studied the psychology of idiots, was not aware that they are not to be wrought upon by imaginative fears' (6). David's maladroit coaxing of Jacob later leads directly to the exposure of his dishonesty, although at the time he insists hypocritically that it is 'a duty to be good to idiots [...]. We might have been idiots ourselves—everybody might have been born idiots, instead of having their right senses' (28). None of the characters in the tale express any genuine sympathy for Jacob, and even his virtuous elder brother, Jonathan Faux, exclaims, 'A fine trouble and cost he is to us, in th' eating and other things, but we must bear what's laid on us' (30). The narrator also reflects on the effect which David's ornate confectionery shop has on the children of Grimworth: 'When I think of the sweet-tasted swans, and other ingenious white shapes crunched by the small teeth of that rising generation, I am glad to remember that a certain amount of calcareous food has been held good for young creatures whose bones are not quite formed' (15).


Eliot 1878

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