Characterized as an "eccentric literary man not without a spice of genius," William North was born in England and eve
The story's affluent and nameless narrator describes his insatiable desire to seek pleasure. He begins to dabble in substances that he believes will help him achieve a greater sense of enjoyment out of life, working his way from wine up to ether. At the conclusion of his ascent (or descent), the narrator proclaims "If there is truth in wine, in gas there is revelation." He concocts a “super gas” which would allow a user to experience extreme, unparalleled enjoyment. Unfortunately, it also ends the user's life. In an existential haze, the narrator and his wife Mira decide to live their lives on the gas. Mira dies and then the narrator becomes "a living corpse." After being reintroduced to "the common air of the sky," he grows incapable of receiving enjoyment from anything common.
Although North is not attributed as the author of "The Living Corpse" in the issue in which it appeared, he is credited with authorship in "The Old and the New: A Retrospect and a Prospect."
This short story by William North originally appeared in Putnam's Monthly, but also appeared in the inaugural issue of The Saturday Press in 1858.
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