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This article is about parsimonious people. For other uses, see Miser (disambiguation).
A detail from L'Avaro, a print by Antonio Piccinni (1878)

A miser is a person who is reluctant to spend, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts and some necessities, in order to hoard money or other possessions.[1] Although the word is sometimes used loosely to characterise anyone who is mean with their money, if such behaviour is not accompanied by taking delight in what is saved, it is not properly miserly.

Misers as a type have been a perennial object of popular fascination and a fruitful source for writers and artists in many cultures.

Accounting for misers[edit]

Freud attributed the development of miserly behaviour to toilet training in childhood. Some infants would attempt to retain the contents of their bowels and this would result in the development of an anal retentive personality that would attempt to retain their wealth and possessions in later life.[2]

In the Christian West the attitude to those whose interest centred on gathering money had been coloured by the teachings of the Church. From its point of view, both the miser and the usurer were guilty of the cardinal sin of avarice and the two were often confounded.[3] According to the parable of the Elm and the Vine in the quasi-Biblical Shepherd of Hermas, the rich and the poor should be in a relationship of mutual support. Those with wealth are in need of the prayers of the poor for their salvation and can only earn them by acts of charity.[4] A typical late example of Christian doctrine on the subject is the Reverend Erskine Neale's The Riches that Bring No Sorrow (1852), a moralising work based on a succession of biographies contrasting philanthropists and misers.[5]

Running parallel with this has been a disposition, inherited from Classical times, to class miserly behaviour as a type of eccentricity and include accounts of misers in such works as G. H. Wilson's four-volume compendium of short biographies, The Eccentric Mirror (1807).[6] Charles Dickens put these works to comic use in Our Mutual Friend (serialised 1864/5), with its cutting analysis of Victorian capitalism. In the third section of that novel, Mr Boffin decides to cure his ward Bella Wilfer of her obsession with wealth and position by appearing to become a miser. Taking her with him on a round of the bookshops,

Mr Boffin would say, 'Now, look well all round, my dear, for a Life of a Miser, or any book of that sort; any Lives of odd characters who may have been Misers.' .... The moment she pointed out any book as being entitled Lives of eccentric personages, Anecdotes of strange characters, Records of remarkable individuals, or anything to that purpose, Mr Boffin's countenance would light up, and he would instantly dart in and buy it.'[7]

In the following chapter, Mr Boffin brings a coachload of the books to his premises and readers are introduced to a selection of typical titles and to the names of several of the misers treated in them. Among the books appear James Caulfield's Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons (1794-5);[8] Kirby's Wonderful Museum of Remarkable Characters (1803);[9] Henry Wilson's Wonderful Characters (1821);[10] and F. Somner Merryweather's Lives and Anecdotes of Misers or The Passion of Avarice displayed in the parsimonious habits, unaccountable lives and remarkable deaths of the most notorious misers of all ages (1850).[11]

The majority of the misers are 18th century characters, with John Elwes and Daniel Dancer at their head. The first account of Elwes' life was Edward Topham's The Life of the Late John Elwes: Esquire (1790), which was initially published in his paper The World. The popularity of such accounts is attested by the seven editions printed in the book's first year and the many later reprintings under various titles.[12] Biographies of Dancer followed soon after, at first in periodicals such as the Edinburgh Magazine[13] and the Sporting Magazine,[14] then in the compendiums Biographical Curiosities (which also included Elwes)[15] and The Strange and Unaccountable Life of Daniel Dancer, Esq. ... with singular anecdotes of the famous Jemmy Taylor, the Southwark usurer (1797), which was often to be reissued under various titles.[16]

A pencil drawing of Daniel Dancer by Richard Cooper Jr, 1790s

Jemmy Taylor's name also appears in the list of notable misers that Mr Boffin ennumerates. He is coupled with the banker Jemmy Wood of Gloucester, a more recent miser about whom Dickens later wrote an article in his magazine All The Year Round.[17] Others include John Little (who appears in Merryweather), Reverend Mr Jones of Blewbury (also in Merryweather) and Dick Jarrel, whose surname was really Jarrett and an account of whom appeared in the Annual Register for 1806.[18] The many volumes of this publication also figured among Mr Boffin's purchases.

Two more of the misers mentioned made their way into other literary works. John Hopkins, known as Vulture Hopkins, was the subject of a scornful couplet in the third of Alexander Pope's Moral Essays, "Of the Use of Riches":

When Hopkins dies, a thousand lights attend
The wretch who living saved a candle's end.[19]

John Overs, with a slight change to his name, became the subject of a three-act drama by Douglas William Jerrold, John Overy or The Miser of Southwark Ferry (1828), roughly based on an incident when he feigned death to save expenses and was killed by accident.[20]

This labelling of misers by their geographical location was also extended into paintings of them. The Gloucester Miser, Jemmy Wood, figures in a damaged painting owned by Gloucester City Council.[21] Local painter Robert Mendham (1792-1875) featured a Suffolk subject, "The Miser of Eye" (c.1820),[22] while in Cumberland William Brown portrayed the Carlisle Miser (c.1811).[23] This was Margery Jackson (1722–1812), who also figures in Brown's "Hiring Croglin Watty at Carlisle Cross".[24] The title refers to the dialect ballad "Croglin Watty", in which the last servant ever to be hired by Margery recounts his deprivations in her house.[25] That she is still amusedly remembered in her native town is witnessed by the modern Miser! The Musical (2011), based on her life.[26]

Misers in literature[edit]


There were two famous references to misers in ancient Greek sources. One was Aesop's fable of The Miser and his Gold which he had buried and came back to view every day. When his treasure was eventually stolen and he was lamenting his loss, he was consoled by a neighbour that he might as well bury a stone (or return to look at the hole) and it would serve the same purpose.[27] The other was a two-line epigram in the Greek Anthology, once ascribed to Plato. In this a man, intending to hang himself, discovered hidden gold and left the rope behind him; on returning, the man who had hidden the gold hanged himself with the noose he found in its place.[28] Both these stories were alluded to or retold in the following centuries, the most famous versions appearing in La Fontaine's Fables as L'avare qui a perdu son trésor (IV.20)[29] and Le trésor et les deux hommes (IX.15)[30] respectively. Yet another of La Fontaine's fables was the late addition, ""The miser and the monkey" (XII.3),[31] used as a cautionary tale for financiers. Here a man keeps his hoard in a sea-encircled tower until a pet monkey amuses itself one day in throwing the coins out of the window.

India also made misers the butt of its humorous folklore. One very early cautionary tale is the Illisa Jataka from the Buddhist scriptures. This includes two stories, in the first of which a rich miser is miraculously converted to generosity by a disciple of the Buddha; following this, the Buddha tells another story of a miser whose wealth is given away when the king of the gods impersonates him, and when he tries to intervene is threatened with what will happen if he does not change his ways.[32] Two 16th century stories concerning misers are included among the witticisms attributed to Birbal during Mughal times. In one he extracts from a casuistical miser a fee for a poem written in his praise.[33] In the other the miser is forced to reward a merchant who rescued his hoard from a fire with the whole of it.[34]

The Arabs similarly make extensive use of misers in their tales, fables and literature. Perhaps the most famous is "The misers" a 600+ page collection of stories, anecdotes and tellings all involving misers in one form or another by Al-Jāḥiẓ (Abū ʿUthman ʿAmr ibn Baḥr al-Kinānī al-Baṣrī). He lived in 800AD during the Abbasid Caliphate in Basra making this the earliest largest known work on misers in Arabic literature.

A print of John Gay's "The Miser and Plutus" by William Blake, 1793

In 18th century Britain, when there was a vogue for versified fables, there were a number in which misers featured. Anne Finch's "Tale of the Miser and the Poet" was included among others in her 1713 Miscellany.[35] There an unsuccessful poet meets Mammon in the guise of a miser digging up his buried gold and debates with him whether the life of wit and learning is a better calling than the pursuit of wealth. Eventually the poet is convinced that keeping his talent hidden until it is better regarded is the more prudent course. It was followed by John Gay's ""The Miser and Plutus", published in his collection of Fables in 1737.[36] A miser frightened for the security of his hoard denounces gold as the corruptor of virtue and is visited by the angry god of wealth, who asserts that not gold but the attitude towards it is what damages the personality.

While these are more or less original interpretations of the theme, the Scottish poet Allan Ramsay harks back to the light hearted approach of the Greek Anthology in his dialect fable, "The Miser and Minos". Descending to the Classical underworld at his death, the miser is brought before the judge of the dead and is given the extreme punishment of returning to earth to witness how his wealth is now being spent.[37] Later in the same century, the French fabulist Claris de Florian created the humorous poem L'avare et son fils (IV.9 The miser and his son). In this a father hoards apples and only eats those going rotten, until his son discovers them and, when caught, excuses himself on the grounds that he was confining himself to eating only the good ones.[38]


Misers are frequent figures of fun in the epigrams of the Greek Anthology.[39] It is charged of them that they are not masters of their own money if they do not spend it. Niarchus tells of one who does not commit suicide because of the cost of the rope to do so; Lucillius tells of another who dies because funeral expenses are cheaper than calling in a doctor. Elsewhere in the anthology is another epigram by Lucillius of a miser's encounter with a mouse that assures him he only wants lodging, not board.[40] In one more, a miser dreams that he is in debt and hangs himself.[41]

The Latin writer Horace put miserly behaviour at the centre of the first poem in his first collection of satires, dealing with extremes of behaviour.[42] In writing an imitation of it, an English poet who provides only his surname, Minshull, was to emphasise this by titling his work The Miser, a Poem (London, 1735).[43]

In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, misers are put in the fourth circle of hell, in company with spendthrifts as part of their mutual punishment. They roll weights representing their wealth, constantly colliding and quarreling.[44]

During the 16th century, emblem books began using an illustration of an ass eating thistles as symbol of miserly behaviour, often with an accompanying poem. They appeared in various European languages, among them the illustrated trencher by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, dating from about 1630, on which an ass laden with rich foods is shown cropping a thistle, surrounding which is the quatrain:

The Asse which dainty meates doth beare
And feedes on thistles all the yeare
Is like the wretch that hourds up gold
And yet for want doth suffer cold.[45]

In the third book of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser created a portrait of a man trapped between conflicting desires in Malbecco, who appears in cantos 9-10. He is torn between his miserliness and love for his wife Hellenore. Wishing to escape with a lover, she sets fire to his storeroom and forces him to choose between them:

Ay when to him she cryde, to her he turnd,
And left the fyre; love money overcame:
But when he marked how him money burnd,
He left his wyf; money did love disclame.[46]

Eventually losing both, he becomes the embodiment of frustrated jealousy.

Alexander Pope created another masterly portrait in the character of Cotta in his Epistle to Bathurst. Reluctance to spend confines this aristocrat to his ancestral hall, where he refuses to engage with the world.[47] Later in the 18th century the Scottish poet, Dr William Stevenson (1719–83), included nine satirical epitaphs on misers among his collected works, of which the last begins:

A miser rots beneath this mould'ring stone,
Who starv'd himself through spleen to skin and bone,
Lest worms might riot on his flesh at last
And boast, what he ne'er could, a full repast.[48]

Titles from the 19th century include the Irish Arthur Geoghegan's The Old Miser and Mammon: an Incident Poem (Newry 1818) and Frederick Featherstone's New Christmas Poem entitled The Miser's Christmas Eve (1893). There was also an anonymous didactic poem titled The Miser (London 1831). Although miserly behaviour is referenced during the course of its 78 pages, the real focus there is the attraction of money in all its manifestations.[49]


Misers were represented onstage as comic figures in Classical times. In particular the Latin treatment of the character Euclio in the Aulularia of Plautus,[50] with the subplot of a marriageable daughter to complicate matters, was very influential. One of the earliest Renaissance writers to adapt it was the Croatian Marin Držić in about 1555, whose Skup (The Miser) is set in Dubrovnik. Ben Jonson adapted elements from Plautus for his early comedy The Case is Altered (c.1597).[51] The miser there is the Milanese Jaques de Prie, who has a (supposed) daughter, Rachel. Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft and Samuel Coster followed with their very popular Dutch comedy Warenar (1617). The play is named from the miser, whose daughter is Claartje. Molière adapted Plautus' play into French as L'Avare (The Miser, 1668) while in England Thomas Shadwell adapted Molière's work in 1672[52] and a version based on both Plautus and Molière was produced by Henry Fielding in 1732.[53] Among later adaptations there was Vasily Pashkevich's 18th-century Russian comic opera The Miser and pioneering dramatic works in Arabic by Marun al-Naqqash (1817–55)[54] and in Serbian by Jovan Sterija Popović.[55]

Aubrey Beardsley's 1898 title page for Ben Jonson's play

There were also independent dramatic depictions of misers, including the Jewish moneylender Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (1598) by William Shakespeare[56] and the title character of Ben Jonson's Volpone (1606).[56] In Aubrey Beardsley's title page for the latter, Volpone is shown worshiping his possessions, in illustration of the lines "Dear Saint, / Riches, the dumb god that giv'st all men tongues."[57] A similar scene takes place in the second act of Alexander Pushkin's short tragedy Skupoi rytsar (1836). This concerns a son, Albert, kept short of funds by his father, the Baron. Under the title The Miserly Knight, it was made an opera by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1906.[58] In the corresponding act in the latter, the Baron visits his underground storehouse, where he gloats at a new addition to his coffers and moodily contemplates the extravagance of his son during a 15-minute solo.

Following on from the continuing success of Molière's L'Avare, there were a spate of French plays dealing with misers and their matrimonial plans over the next century and a half. What complicates matters is that several of these had the same title but were in fact separate plays written by different authors. L'Avare Amoureux (The Miser in Love) by Jean du Mas d' Aigueberre (1692-1755) was a one act comedy acted in Paris in 1729.[59] It is not the same as the anonymous one act comedy of the same title published in 1777.[60]

Another set of plays borrows a title from the Italian dramatist Carlo Goldoni, who was working in France at the end of his life. He had already produced a one act comedy titled L'avaro (The Miser) in Bologna in 1756. In 1776 he produced in France the five act L' avare fastueux (The Spendthrift Miser).[61] The same title was used by L. Reynier for his five act verse drama of 1794[62] and by Claude Baron Godart d'Aucourt de Saint Just (1769-1826) for his three act verse drama of 1805.[63]

The early 19th century saw misers become the subject of the musicals then fashionable in France. Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne collaborated on L'avare en goguette (The miser's spree) in 1823,[64] while Jean-François Bayard and Paul Duport collaborated on the two act La fille de l'avare (The Miser's Daughter) in 1835.[65] Similarly titled plays in that decade include the English John Purchas' five-act comedy The Miser's Daughter or The Lover's Curse[66] and the American stage production, Julietta Gordini:The Miser's Daughter, a verse play in five acts, which claims to derive its plot 'from an Italian story'.[67] Douglas William Jerrold's John Overy or The Miser of Southwark Ferry, (1828) also brings in a daughter whom the miser attempts to sell off as a mistress to her disguised lover.[68] Earlier Jerrold had written a one-act farce, The Smoked Miser or The Benefit of Hanging (1823), in which a miser tries to marry off his ward to advantage.[69] Another farce produced in Canada, Major John Richardson's The Miser Outwitted (1841), had an Irish theme and dealt with a plot to trick a miser out of his money.[70] The later Thomas Peckett Prest's The Miser of Shoreditch or the Curse of Avarice (1854) was based on a penny dreadful story by him; later he adapted it as a two-act romantic drama set in time of Henry VIII.[71]

The popularity of these theatrical misers is evident from the number of paintings and drawings based on them, many of which were then adapted as prints. In 18th century England, it was Fielding's "The Miser" that attracted most attention. Samuel Wale's drawing of the 2nd act was also made into a print.[72] But it was principally depictions of various actors in the character of Lovegold, the play's anti-hero, which attracted artists. Samuel De Wilde pictured William Farren in the role at the Theatre Royal, Bath.[73] Several other works became plates in one or another book dedicated to English drama. James Roberts II (1753 - c.1810) executed a pen and ink watercolour of Edward Shuter in character which was adapted as a print for the six-volume play collection, Bell's British Theatre.[74] Charles Reuben Ryley made a print of Thomas Ryder in the role for Lowndes' British Theatre (1788),[75] while Thomas Parkinson's painting of Richard Yates as Lovegold was adapted for the 1776 edition of that work.[76] In the following century, Thomas Charles Wageman's dramatic head and shoulders drawing of William Farren as Lovegold illustrated William Oxberry's collection of texts, The New English Drama (1820).[77] From this time too dates the coloured print of Samuel Vale acting the part of Goliah Spiderlimb, the comic servant in Jerrold's The Smoked Miser.[78]

Molière's L'Avare was not altogether eclipsed in England by the work adapted from it. A drawing by William Hogarth of the play's denouement was included as a print in the translation of Molière's work[79] and prints based upon it were made by various other engravers.[80] William Powell Frith devoted one of his theatrical paintings to a scene from L'Avare in 1876[81] while the French actor Grandmesnil in the role of Harpagon was painted by Jean-Baptiste François Desoria.[82]

In addition, the challenging and complex part of Shylock was favoured by English artists. Johann Zoffany painted Charles Macklin in the role that had brought him fame at the Covent Garden Theatre (1767–68)[83] and Thomas Gray portrayed a confrontation between Shylock and his daughter Jessica (1868).[84] Character portraits of other actors in Shylock's role have included Henry Urwick (1859–1931) by Walter Chamberlain Urwick (1864-1943),[85] Herbert Beerbohm Tree by Charles Buchel[86] and Arthur Bourchier, also by Buchel.[87]


Characterisation of misers has been a frequent focus in prose fiction:

The miser discovers the loss of his money, George Cruickshank's 1842 illustration for Ainsworth's The Miser's Daughter
  • The miserly priest who was Lazarillo de Tormes' second master in the Spanish picaresque novel published in 1554.[88]
  • Yan Jiansheng in an episode of The Scholars by Wu Jingzi (吳敬梓), written about 1750. This miser was unable to die easily until a wasteful second wick was removed from the lamp at his bedside.[89]
  • Jean-Esther van Gobseck − an affluent usurer in the novel Gobseck (1830) by Balzac.[90]
  • Felix Grandet – whose daughter is the title character in the novel Eugénie Grandet (1833) by Balzac.[91]
  • Fardarougha Donovan in the Irish William Carleton's Fardarougha the Miser (1839).[92]
  • Plyushkin - a compulsive hoarder in Nikolai Gogol's novel Dead Souls (1842).[93]
  • John Scarve - in the novel The Miser's Daughter (first serialised 1842) by William Harrison Ainsworth.[94] The story is set in the 1770s and the character of Scarve was inspired by the real-life miser John Elwes. Two dramatised versions were played in 1842 and an adaptation called Hilda in 1872.
  • Ebenezer Scrooge – the lead character of A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens.[95] He too was based on John Elwes. The story has been adapted many times for stage and screen.
  • Mr. Prokharchin – title character of the short story Mr. Prokharchin (1846) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.[96]
  • Uncle Jan and his nephew Thijs in Hendrik Conscience's novel of Flemish peasant life, De Gierigaard (1853, translated into English as "The Miser" in 1855).[97]
  • Silas Marner – title character of George Eliot's novel Silas Marner (1861), who eventually abandons his avaricious ways.[98]
  • Ebenezer Balfour the villain of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped (1886), which is set during the Jacobite disturbances in 18th century Scotland. Attempting to deprive his nephew David (the hero of the novel) of his inheritance, he arranges to have the young man kidnapped.[99]
  • Trina McTeague, the miserly wife in McTeague: a story of San Francisco (1899) by Frank Norris.[100] As avarice slowly overtakes her, she withdraws her savings so that she can gloat over the money and even roll about in it. The book was the basis for a silent film in 1916 and Erich von Stroheim's Greed in 1924. More recently, it was also the basis for William Bolcom's opera McTeague (1992).[101]
  • Henry Earlforward in Arnold Bennett's novel Riceyman Steps (1923), who makes life miserable for the wife who married him in the hope of security.[56]
  • Séraphin Poudrier, the central figure in Claude-Henri Grignon's Un Homme et son péché (1933). This French-Canadian novel was translated into English as "The Woman and the Miser" in 1978. Set at the end of the 19th century, the novel broke with the convention of extolling rural life and depicts a miser who mistreats his wife and lets her die because calling in a doctor would cost money. There have been adaptations for stage, radio, TV and two films, of which the most recent was Séraphin: un homme et son péché (2002), titled Séraphin: Heart of Stone in the English-language version.

There were beside many other prolific and once popular novelists who addressed themselves to the subject of miserliness. For the most part theirs were genre works catering to readers in the circulating libraries of the 19th century. Among them was the gothic novel The miser and his family (1800) by Eliza Parsons and Catherine Hutton's The miser married (1813). The latter was an epistolatory novel in which Charlotte Montgomery describes her own romantic affairs and in addition those of her mother, an unprincipled spendthrift who has just married the miser of the title.[102] Another female novelist, Mary E. Bennett (1813–99), set her The Gipsy Bride or the Miser's Daughter (1841) in the 16th century. Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Aurora Floyd (1863) was a successful sensation novel in which banknotes rather than gold are the object of desire and a motive for murder.[103] It was dramatised the same year and later toured the US; in 1912 it was made a silent film. Later examples include Eliza Lynn Linton's Paston Carew, Millionaire and Miser (1886); Miser Farebrother (1888) by Benjamin Leopold Farjeon;[104] and Dollikins and the Miser (1890) by the American Frances Eaton.[105]

Misers in art[edit]

As mentioned earlier, bracketing the miser and the usurer as equally culpable types makes interpreting the subject of early paintings with a moral message difficult, since they may represent either a hoarder,a money lender or even a tax collector.

Such early paintings cluster into recognisable genres, all of which point to the sinful nature of preoccupation with money for its own sake. Hieronymus Bosch's panel of Death and the Miser, dating from the 1490s, started a fashion in depicting this subject among Low Countries artists. Bosch shows the miser on his deathbed, with various demons crowding about his possessions, while an angel supports him and directs his attention to higher things. The link between finance and the diabolical is also drawn by another Fleming, Jan Matsys, in his portrayal of the man of affairs being assisted in his double bookkeeping by a demon.[106] The same connection is made in "The devil and the usurer" in the Valenciennes Musée des beaux-arts, formerly attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Younger, in which two devils pluck at the sleeve of a poorly dressed moneylender.[107]

The Gospel Parable of the Rich Fool[108] lies behind another series of paintings which stem ultimately from mediaeval illustrations of the Dance of Death. There a skeleton compels those from all walks of life, but particularly types of the rich and the powerful, to join him in his dance to the grave. In 1538 Hans Holbein the Younger initiated a popular treatment of this subject in which each type is separately illustrated, of which there were many imitations in succeeding centuries.[109] Among the depictions is a man starting up in protest behind a table piled with wealth on which a skeleton is laying hands. In his print of 1651, Wenceslas Hollar makes the connection with the parable clear by quoting from it in the frame.[110] A variation is provided by Jan Provoost's 16th century diptych in which death confronts the man of affairs with his own account.[111] A century later, Frans Francken the Younger treats the theme twice, in both versions of which a skeleton serenades a luxuriously dressed greybeard sitting at a table.[112]

Yet another genre was the Allegory of Avarice, of which one of the earliest examples is Albrecht Dürer's painting of a naked old woman with a sack of coins (1507).[113] This makes the point that age comes to all and confiscates all consolations. A woman is chosen as subject because the Latin avaritia is of the feminine gender. Low Countries artists who took up the allegorical theme added the variation of making the woman examine a coin by the light of a candle or lantern, as in the paintings by Gerrit van Honthorst[114] and Mathias Stomer.[115] Paulus Moreelse makes the link with the dance of death genre by introducing a young boy slyly fingering the coins while keeping a wary eye on the woman to see if she has noticed.[116] These Dutch variations were mostly painted during the 1620s, when Rembrandt too borrowed the imagery, but his candlelit examiner of a coin is male and the piece is variously titled "The Money Changer" or "The Rich Fool", in reference to the parable already mentioned.[117] Jan Steen, on the other hand, makes his subject very obviously a miser who hugs a small sack of coins and holds one up for intent inspection.[118]

In the Hieronymus Bosch Death and the Miser, the pull between spirituality and materialism is highlighted by making the deathbed a scene of conflict between the angel and demons. Quentin Matsys suggests the same polarity in his The moneylender and his wife (1514).[119] Here the woman is studying a religious book while her husband is testing coins by weight. In the hands of the later Marinus van Reymerswaele the contrast disappears. The wife of his moneylender is shown helping with the bookkeeping and leaning sideways, as mesmerised as her husband by the pile of coins.[120] Gillis van Tilborch's painting of much the same scene is titled The Misers and again demonstrates the ambivalent targets of the moral message. The only difference is that the couple engaged in inspecting their money are old, as was the case in all the allegories of avarice.[121]

Another area of ambivalence centres on the kind of clothes worn by the so-called misers. The subject of Hendrik Gerritsz Pot's painting from the 1640s in the Uffizi is fashionably dressed and wearing a ring. He may be inspired by the wealth and jewelry piled on his table, but he obviously has no objection to advertising his well-to-do status.[122] On the other hand, the Miser Casting His Accounts presented by Jan Lievens is poorly dressed and his interest in hoarding is indicated by the way he gloats on the key that will lock his money away.[123] The same dichotomy occurs in later centuries. Jean-Baptiste Le Prince's miser is also richly robed as he sits surrounded by his possessions,[124] while Theodore Bernard Heuvel's miser sits on the chest containing his hoard and looks anxiously over his shoulder.[125] Paul Gavarni's miser shows much the same apprehension as he leans on the table where his money is piled and glances round suspiciously.[126]

English depictions of misers in the 18th century also begin as genre paintings. Gainsborough Dupont's poorly dressed character clutches a bag of coin and looks up anxiously in the painting in the Ashmolean Museum.[127] John Cranch (1751-1821) pictures two armed desperadoes breaking in on his.[128]

By this time the theme was distancing itself from the simply moralities of journeyman painters and becoming a subject for aristocratic amateurs. The Empress Maria Feodorovna's miser of 1890 handles a small strongbox.[129] The Indian Raja Ravi Varma paints a Jewish character type for his miser, dated 1901,[130] while the Hungarian nobleman Ladislav Medňanský titles his humanised study "Shylock" (1900).[131]


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  2. ^ Nicky Hayes (2000), Foundations of psychology, Cengage Learning 
  3. ^ Richard Newhauser, The Early History of Greed: The Sin of Avarice in Early Medieval Thought and Literature, Cambridge 2000
  4. ^ III.2
  5. ^ Online archive
  6. ^ Online Archive
  7. ^ Chapter 5 Gutenberg site
  8. ^ Various volumes appear in Google Books
  9. ^ Google Books; later titled Kirby's Wonderful Museum and Eccentric Magagazine in its 1820 reprint
  10. ^ Google Books
  11. ^ Online archive
  12. ^ Google Books
  13. ^ "Anecdotes of the late Daniel Dancer Esq", 1794, pp.399-40
  14. ^ "Anecdotes of the Late Daniel Dancer" 1795
  15. ^ Google Books
  16. ^ Roy Bearden-White, How the Wind Sits; Or, The History of Henry and Ann Lemoine, Chapbook Writers and Publishers of the Late Eighteenth Century, Southern Illinois University 2007 pp.55-7
  17. ^ April 10, 1869 pp.454-6
  18. ^ pp.387/8
  19. ^ An account of him was given in The Gentleman's Magazine for 1788, pp.510-11
  20. ^ The Dramatic Magazine 1, 1829 pp.78-9
  21. ^ Wikimedia
  22. ^ BBC Arts
  23. ^ BBC Arts
  24. ^ BBC Arts
  25. ^ The Songs and Ballads of Cumberland, George Routledge & Sons, 1866, pp. 330-3
  26. ^ The Journal, June 7 2011
  27. ^ Aesopica site
  28. ^ The Greek Anthology III, London 1917, pp.25-6
  29. ^ The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, translated by Norman Shapiro, University of Illinois 2007, p.101
  30. ^ Online translation
  31. ^ Online translation
  32. ^ Tale 78, Sacred texts online
  33. ^ Anindya Roy, Akbar-Birbal Jokes, New Delhi 2005 "The Miser's Misery", pp.125-6
  34. ^ Clifford Sawhney, 50 Wittiest Tales Of Birbal, Bangalore 2005, "A question of 'like'", pp.47-9
  35. ^ University of Pennsylvania
  36. ^ vol.1, fable 6
  37. ^ Poems vol. 2 (1761) pp. 37-9
  38. ^ French fable site
  39. ^ A group of eight in Book XI are numbered 165-73
  40. ^ The Greek anthology for schools, poem 29
  41. ^ Poems of the Orient p.323
  42. ^ Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, Loeb edition translated by H. Rushton Fairclough, London 1942 p.5 ff
  43. ^ Kupersmith, William (2007). English Versions of Roman Satire in the Earlier Eighteenth Century. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses. p. 95. 
  44. ^ Jennifer Doane Upton, Dark Way to Paradise 
  45. ^ British Museum
  46. ^ III.10, stanza 15
  47. ^ Moral Essays III, lines 177-196
  48. ^ Original Poems on Several Subjects Volume 2, p.280
  49. ^ Internet archive
  50. ^ Translated into blank verse in the 18th century by Bonnell Thornton, available on Google Books
  51. ^ The text is online
  52. ^ Albert S. Borgman, Thomas Shadwell, his life and comedies, New York 1969, pp.141-7
  53. ^ "The Miser", available on Google Books
  54. ^ M.M.Badawi, "Arabic drama: early developments" in Modern Arabic Literature, Cambridge 1992, pp.331-2
  55. ^ McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama 1984
  56. ^ a b c John Mullan (7 March 2009), "Ten of the best misers", The Guardian (London) 
  57. ^ Wikimedia
  58. ^ There is a complete performance on YouTube
  59. ^ Google Books
  60. ^ Google Books
  61. ^ Edward Copping, Alfieri and Goldoni: Their Lives and Adventures, London 1857, p.259
  62. ^ Google Books
  63. ^ Google Books
  64. ^ Google Books
  65. ^ Google Books
  66. ^ New Monthly Magazine 1839 p.583
  67. ^ Google Books
  68. ^ The Dramatic Magazine 1, 1829 p.79
  69. ^ Text at Victorian Plays project
  70. ^ Theatre Research in Canada, Spring 1986
  71. ^ Victorian Plays project
  72. ^ British Museum
  73. ^ BBC Arts
  74. ^ British Museum
  75. ^ British Museum
  76. ^ British Museum
  77. ^ British Museum
  78. ^ British Museum
  79. ^ P.J.De Voogd, Henry Fielding and William Hogarth, Amsterdam NL 1981, pp.38-9
  80. ^ Victoria & Albert Museum
  81. ^ 19th century British painting
  82. ^ Artflakes
  83. ^ Shmoop
  84. ^ Wikimedia
  85. ^ BBC Arts
  86. ^ Shmoop
  87. ^ BBC Arts
  88. ^ The Universal Anthology vol.12, 1899, pp.94-103
  89. ^ Cultural China
  90. ^ A translation on the Gutenberg site
  91. ^ A translation on the Gutenberg site
  92. ^ Gutenberg site
  93. ^ A translation on the Gutenberg site
  94. ^ Google Books
  95. ^ Available on the Gutenberg site
  96. ^ Lantz, K. A. (2004). The Dostoevsky encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 118. ISBN 0-313-30384-3. 
  97. ^ Available in Google Books
  98. ^ Available on the Gutenberg site
  99. ^ Available on the Gutenberg site
  100. ^ Available online at Gutenberg
  101. ^ New York Magazine, 16 November 1992
  102. ^ Internet archive
  103. ^ Online archive
  104. ^ Google Books
  105. ^ [1]
  106. ^ BBC Arts
  107. ^ French Government arts site
  108. ^ Luke 12.15-22
  109. ^ Dance of death site
  110. ^ Wikimedia Commons
  111. ^ Wiki Commons
  112. ^ Nice Art Gallery
  113. ^ Wikimedia Commons
  114. ^ Web Gallery of Art
  115. ^ French Government cultural site
  116. ^ Art finding site
  117. ^ Wikemedia Commons
  118. ^ Art History images
  119. ^ Wikimedia
  120. ^ Wikimedia Commons
  121. ^ Internaute magazine
  122. ^ Web Gallery of Art
  123. ^ BBC Arts
  124. ^ Art Expert site
  125. ^ Nice art gallery
  126. ^ French government arts site
  127. ^ BBC Arts
  128. ^ BBC Arts
  129. ^ Wikimedia
  130. ^ Cyberkerala
  131. ^ Wikimedia

External links[edit]

Media related to Misers at Wikimedia Commons