In 1876, William Wetmore Story, an accomplished American sculptor, essayist and poet, published an imagined conversation between two artists in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that concludes with a discussion of spiritualism. Towards the end of the debate about the veracity of spiritualist accounts, one of the artists questions popular notions about the seemingly implacable solemnity of the spirit world:

Why do we always think of spirits as being so serious? Are we to lose all our sense of humour when we lose our bodies? Are we never to amuse ourselves? Is there nothing in the other world to correspond to the enjoyments of this? Are all our art and poetry to be utterly swept away? Are there to be no varieties of character and personality? Shall we never laugh?1