Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

The Elixir of Life

Background to The Elixir of Life

By early 1915 Ransome was living primarily in Russia. His eyesight and health were both too poor for military service, but he hoped to do useful work as a war correspondent. Whilst awaiting an opportunity, he continued work on Old Peter’s Russian Tales and then, on February 20, decided to try writing his first novel, “if only to prove to myself that I could“.

Ransome completed the first draft of 60,000 words in one month, despite losing nearly a week’s work because of broken glasses and violent stomach pains. He worried constantly that he was wasting time by being self-indulgent, so travelled to Petrograd to seek his friend, Hugh Walpole’s, reassurance. Walpole duly gave it, and on May 5 Ransome posted the revised manuscript to Methuen, in London.


The Elixir of Life is an eighteenth century romance about a young gentleman, his uncle, a Satanic philosopher and a damsel in distress.

First publication

Published by Methuen & Co in September, 1915.


  • Out of Print

Ransome's drawing of a parrot, our story telling logo

I spent the morning… working out a synopsis of twenty chapters, took a sledge, drove into Moscow and bought a lot of typewriting paper.


Also in Story-telling

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