I'm looking for the original source of something similar to this phrase:

"Money is the winding-sheet of the human race."

I found references to "winding sheet" in a few places: William Blake (Ideas of Good and Evil), a novel by Ann Petry (Like a Winding Sheet), an album of music by Mark Lanegan (The Winding Sheet), a poem by Joseph Warren, a song by Leonard Cohen and various other sources. I also referred to the definitions and etymologies of "winding sheet" in Websters, Collins, on Wikipedia, and my hardcopy of the OED, using a magnifying glass. These sources did not meet my needs because none of them describe money as the "winding sheet" of the human race, or in any other similar terms.

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    It’s pretty hard to find the source of something “similar to” something we don’t know about. A winding sheet , or shroud, is used to wrap corpses for burial.
    – Xanne
    Jun 19, 2022 at 6:43
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    I’m voting to close this question because this is not idiomatic. The origin of fixed expressions is on-topic, but not the origin of this statement. Jun 19, 2022 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


The closest phrase I could find was “money is an effective winding-sheet”.

It appears in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel, Goldfinger, which was originally published in 1959:

      ‘Mr Bond—’ Goldfinger snapped his fingers for the two servants— ‘it happens that I am a rich man, a very rich man, and the richer the man the more he needs protection. The ordinary bodyguard or detective is usually a retired policeman. Such men are valueless. Their reactions are slow, their methods old-fashioned, and they are open to bribery. Moreover, they have a respect for human life. That is no good if I wish to stay alive. The Koreans have no such feelings. That is why the Japanese employed them as guards for their prison camps during the war. They are the cruellest, most ruthless people in the world. My own staff are hand picked for these qualities. They have served me well. I have no complaints. Nor have they. They are well paid and well fed and housed. When they want women, street women are brought down from London, well remunerated for their services and sent back. The women are not much to look at, but they are white and that is all the Koreans ask— to submit the white race to the grossest indignities. There are sometimes accidents but— ’ the pale eyes gazed blankly down the table— ‘money is an effective winding-sheet.
      Bond smiled.
      [Goldfinger:] ‘You like the aphorism? It's my own.’

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    Thanks, this is really interesting and is very helpful.
    – jdscomms
    Jun 19, 2022 at 15:01

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