[A note to the author's essay on The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain ]

According to the article in online Encyclopaedia Mythica, Moloch means

"King". The sun god of the Canaanites (Ammonites?) in old Palestine and sometimes associated with the Sumerian Baal, although Moloch (or Molekh) was entirely malevolent. In the 8th-6th century BCE, firstborn children were sacrificed to him by the Israelites in the Valley of Hinnom, south-east of Jerusalem (see also Gehenna). These sacrifices to the sun god were made to renew the strength of the sun fire. This ritual was probably borrowed from surrounding nations, and was also popular in ancient Carthage. Moloch was represented as a huge bronze statue with the head of a bull. The statue was hollow, and inside there burned a fire which colored the Moloch a glowing red. Children were placed on the hands of the statue. Through an ingenious system the hands were raised to the mouth (as if Moloch were eating) and the children fell into the fire where they were consumed by the flames. The people gathered before the Moloch were dancing on the sounds of flutes and tambourines to drown out the screams of the victims. According to some sources, the Moloch in the Old Testamentis not a god, but a specific form of sacrifice.

In his notes to The Haunted Man Michael Slater adds that "Milton represents him [Moloch] as one of Satan's chief henchmen in Paradise Lost" (Christmas Books, Vol. 2, p. 366). Although Dickens never alludes specifically to the Miltonic epic, a number of his biblical allusions are suggestive of that seventeenth- century work. Publisher John Macrone's wedding present to young Mr. and Mrs. Charles Dickens in April, 1836, was his firm's six-volume edition of John Milton's Poetical Works (1835), edited by Egerton Brydges. The inventory of the contents of No. 1 Devonshire Terrace completed by the end of May, 1844, indicates the set were shelved between six volumes of the poetical works of William Wordsworth and three volumes of the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. That same catalogue, as given in the fourth volume of The Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens (1844-1846), shows that Dickens also owned a single-volume edition of Paradise Lost, which he kept on the same shelf as several of his own works and beside The Life and Letters of Cicero and Bishop Thomas Percy 's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765).

Although he makes no specific reference to any work of Milton but Comus even in his published letters, that Dickens was probably familiar with Milton's Paradise Lost is attested to by his closing words in Great Expectations, which are close to those with which Milton closes Paradise Lost.


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Last modified November 28 2000