"Mammon," which comes from the Aramaic word for "riches," is the name in the Bible of a demon who represents the sin of avarice. By medieval times, it had become "the proper name of the devil of covetousness (Oxford English Dictionary)"; John Milton revived this character as one of Satan's cohorts in Paradise Lost (1667). In the Victorian era the word still referred, as it does today, to the same qualities: materialism and idolatry of wealth.

In "Hudson"s Statue," Carlyle uses "Mammon" as a code word for Hudson himself, and all the other rapacious, dishonest barons of industry who made their fortunes by manipulating and exploiting the English public. Carlyle fumes at his society's tendency to raise this kind of man up (both literally, in statue form, and metaphorically), and praise him as a demi-god of progress. Until the English people find more fitting focuses for their admiration, and actively work to emulate these, they are no better than idolators. By invoking Mammon"s name, Carlyle calls up a host of assosications, none of them complementary, linking Hudson and his flock to worship of money over morals.

See also Carlyle's references to Mammon and mammon-worship in Past and Present: "We, with our Mammon-Gospel, have come to strange conclusions. . . . Verily Mammon-worship is a melancholy creed."


Victorian Overview Thomas Carlyle Hudson's Statue

Last modified 23 October 2002