Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 16 (1985)
'Brother Jacob' was written in 1860. but not published until 1864. some months after Romola had completed its run in the Cornhill Magazine. At first sight it appears to be an undistinguished piece of work. with the omniscient author well in evidence. The opening is heavy-handed, a deliberate and sententious humour being levelled at the reader:
Among the many fatalities attending the bloom of young desire. that of blindly taking to the confectionery line has not. perhaps, been sufficiently considered.
Fortunately, this is prelude to a fascinating story which has a comparable psychological insight to that shown in 'The Lifted Veil' (written in 1859)' though of course different in emphasis. Whereas Latimer has the terrible disease of prophecy David Faux has merely those commonplace twin moral diseases of dishonesty and social ambition. But behind David is the shadow of Big Brother, whose love of sweets. bear-hugging and homicidal energy with a pitchfork make him a recognisable precursor of Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck's story is grim. poignant with pathos. heavy with sexuality; George Eliot's story has a delightful lightness of touch for the most part and, in two sequences, a mastery of comic effects which is close to farce.