On this day in literary history, Anthony Trollope died of the giggles. (For real.)

Emily Temple

December 6, 2022, 9:30am

Let this be a warning to any and all holiday revelers, particularly those standing near my window while I’m desperately hoping the baby stays asleep: turns out you can laugh yourself to death. And let this be a warning to everyone with spare time this holiday season: you can read yourself to death, too. (Eat your heart out, David Foster Wallace. Also Steven Millhauser.)

It’s true: Anthony Trollope was only sixty-seven when, in 1882, his niece Edith began reading aloud from a new and popular comic novel, F. Anstey’s Vice Versa, in which, according to The Routledge Research Companion to Anthony Trollope, “a fiftyish father magically switches bodies with his son and finds youth is not the idyll he remembered.” Trollope found the book hilarious, and laughed so hard that he suffered a stroke.

He died a month later, having never recovered—but obviously, the man knew how to live.

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