Brabant, Robert Herbert (1781-1866)


Brabant, Robert Herbert (1781-1866)


Dr. Robert Brabant was a physician and the father of one of George Eliot’s good friends, Elizabeth  Rebecca Brabant, who was usually called “Rufa.” Dr. Brabant met Eliot in 1843, when she was a bridesmaid in Rufa’s and Charles Hennell’s wedding. Immediately after, Dr. Brabant invited Eliot to stay with him and his wife at Devries for a few months “to fill the place of his daughter” (Haight, GE, 49).

George Eliot deeply admired Brabant, who spoke to her as an intellectual equal and began mentoring her in German during her extended visit. She warmly described her living arrangements in letters to friends until she was unexpectedly asked to leave. Apparently, Brabant’s wife had become suspicious of the inappropriate closeness developing between her husband and the appreciative young woman.

After Eliot moved to London in 1851, Brabant became a regular visitor who sometimes escorted her to the theater. Some of Eliot’s letters describe displeasure with Brabant’s presence at this time and mock him. After Eliot began living with George Henry Lewes in 1854, she and Brabant lost touch. Gordon Haight and several other critics believe Brabant to be the primary inspiration for Eliot’s character Casaubon in Middlemarch.


George Eliot Archive, edited by Beverley Park Rilett,



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