A truly significant discovery, Walt Whitman’s Manly Health and Training is an entertaining health manifesto that sheds new light on one of America’s major nineteenth-century authors.
In the fall of 1858, a thirteen-part essay series appeared in the New York Atlas, under the title Manly Health and Training. This nearly 47,000-word journalistic effort, written by Walt Whitman under his pen name “Mose Velsor,” was lost for more than 150 years, buried in just a handful of library archives, until its recent unexpected discovery.
What you hold in your hands is a long-lost health manifesto that, remarkably, is as relevant today as it was back in the nineteenth century. A truly illuminating discovery that reveals much about a little-known period in Whitman’s life, this men’s guide features earnest recommendations for eating, sleeping, and exercise, emphasizing moderation and focusing on the holistic relationship between the mind and the body:
—Be a carnivore: “Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else.” —Engage in vigorous exercise: “Habituate yourself to the brisk walk in the fresh air—to the exercise of pulling the oar—and to the loud declamation upon the hills, or along the shore.” —Go to bed by 10 p.m.: “. . . with a plentiful supply of good air, during the six, seven, or eight hours that are spent in sleep. During most of the year, the window must be kept partly open for this purpose.” —Take a cold shower in the morning: “In most cases the best thing he can commence the day with is a rapid wash of the whole body in cold water, using a sponge, or the hands.” —Wear comfortable shoes: “Most of the usual fashionable boots and shoes, which neither favor comfort, nor health, nor the ease of walking, are to be discarded.” —Grow a beard: “The beard is a great sanitary protection to the throat—for purposes of health it should always be worn, just as much as the hair of the head should be.” —Banish depression: “If the victim of ‘the horrors’ could but pluck up energy enough to strip off all his clothes and gives his whole body a stinging rubdown with a flesh-brush till the skin becomes all red and aglow, he would be thoroughly cured of his depression, by this alone.”
Filled with Whitmanic aphorisms and beautifully illustrated with contemporary artwork, Manly Health and Training provides essential insight into one of the world’s most beloved poets and his philosophy on manhood, bodily perfectibility, and the future of the American body politic.
"History is strewn with delightful little gifts like this one, but they so rarely make their way to the surface; let us be glad we live in a time where we now know Walt Whitman once recommended vigorous nude dry-brushing sessions, followed by a strut down the street to give the locals an eyeful of one's now-glowing skin, chockablock with vitality and other spiritual virtues made physically manifest. Let us all give ourselves a quick rub-down and offer thanks."
—Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts from Jane Eyre, and founder of The Toast