Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

William Harrison Ainsworth – The Elixir Of Life

Posted by demonik on May 17, 2009

William Harrison Ainsworth – The Elixir Of Life (Four Square Gothic Mystery, April 1966: NEL, May, 1975)

Josh Kirby

Josh Kirby

Blurb from the Four Square edition:

WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH was probably the most prolific of all the Gothic writers and hence more of his works have survived in print to the present day. Surprisingly, ‘The Elixir of Life’ (or ‘Auriol’ as it is sometimes called) does not come into this category— copies are quite rare —yet it is without a doubt one of Ainsworth’s most skill­ful pieces of fantasy storytelling. The author was born in Manchester in 1805 and, after studying law for several years, married a publisher’s daughter and himself turned to the world of books. His first major or novel ‘Rookwood’ — based on the life of Dick Turpin — was published in 1834 and by 1881 he had added no fewer than 39 books to his tally. His brutal and often gruesome descriptions of ill-treatment, tor­ture and disease made him unacceptable to some palates — but fascinating to many more. His books about the Great Plague (‘Old St. Paul’s’) witchcraft (‘Lancashire Witches’) and criminals (‘Jack Sheppard’) are the most vivid examples of this macabre style. Early editions of some of Ainsworth’s books have become highly prized among collectors as they are illustrated by the noted 19th century artist, Cruikshank. W. Harrison Ainsworth died at Reigate on January 3, 1882.

NEL 1975 edition

Blurb from the New English Library edition.

In a dingy backstreet a master of the occult sciences discovers the liquid of man’s dreams – the elixir of life.
For years the old man and his faithful dwarf servant have strived for this moment, but in their hour of triumph the precious phial with its golden contents is snatched from them.
For Auriol Darcy learns of the incredible discovery. Eagerly draining the potion, he is propelled into a series of horrifying adventures which make this novel a spell‑
binding masterpiece of Gothic mystery.
But there is one peril against which the elixir is powerless – and man’s eternal dream becomes his greatest nightmare.

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