That great man of letters, Ben Jonson, recognised that the regard for wealth often engendered a quasi-religious respect as he wrote in his letter to the Countess of Rutland in 1616:
Whilst that for which all virtue now is sold, And almost every vice, almightie gold.
Two centuries later the American writer Washington Irving travelled through the riverbank settlements of Louisiana and, noting their ‘contented poverty’, wrote that:
The almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, seems to have no genuine devotees in these peculiar villages.
When Irving’s remarks were published in 1836, a new catchphrase entered the language.