Manly Health and Training with Off-hand Hints towards their Conditions - Walt Whitman writing as Mose Velsor
January 1, 1858
Written by Walt Whitman under the pseudonym Mose Velsor, and originally published in the New York Atlas between 1858-1860, Manly Health and Training is a series of Whitman essays on topics such as diet, exercise, aging, stress, and medicine. These previously unknown Whitman essays were rediscovered in the summer of 2015.
In our view, if nine-tenths of all the various culinary preparations and combinations, vegetables, pastry, soups, stews, sweets, baked dishes, salads, things fried in grease, and all the vast array of confections, creams, pies, jellies, &c., were utterly swept aside from the habitual eating of the people, and a simple meat diet substituted in their place—we will be candid about it, and say in plain words, an almost exclusive meat diet—the result would be greatly, very greatly, in favor of that noble-bodied, pure-blooded, and superior race we have had a leaning toward, in these articles of ours. The effect of nearly all of these highly artificial dishes is to stimulate and goad on the appetite, distend the stomach, thin the blood, and prepare thewayforsomeform or other of disease. They do not harden a man in his fibre, nor make him any the better in wholesome flesh—as it is often to be noticed of such articles that the greatest eaters of them are by no means the fattest, but often lean and scraggly.
The business of eating, in modern civilized life, is probably conducted on the most marked absence of principles, or of anything like reason or science, of aught that can be mentioned. And yet there is nothing in which there may be and ought to be more science displayed. It is here where physiology and medicine have yet to make their great foundationary beginnings—for with all the cry about medical accomplishment, in ourtimes, itis plainly to be seen that, asfar asthe masses of the people are concerned, there is the same state of ignorance and darkness prevalent, that can be shown as marking any of the ages of the past. We have been flooded in America, during the last fifteen or twenty years, with vast numbers of doctors, books, theories, publications, &c., whose general drift, with respect to diet, had been to make people live altogether on dry bread, stewed apples, or similar interesting stuff. What volumes of works have been issued from the different publishing houses, of which the foregoing is about the amount! Probably a more monstrous and enfeebling school could not be started; and yet it has undoubtedly obtained considerable foothold in the United States, especially in New England. In the latter quarter, the people are prone to be too intellectual, and to be “ashamed of the carnal body”—running very much to brains, at the expense of the brawn and muscle of their limbs. It is for this reason probably that in the eastern states the school we allude to have met with the greatest favor, and number the main part of their followers.
But in defiance of all that can be said in behalf of dry bread and stewed apples (good enough diet to deplete the system, at times, or in case of a fit of halfsickness), we have no hesitation in publicly declaring our adherence to the motto previously inscribed—Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else. The result of this would be that the digestive organs would have more than half the labor (agonizing labor, it often is,) withdrawn from them, and the blood relieved from an equally great amount of noxious deposit which, under the present system, is thrown into it. This is very likely an astounding doctrine to the reader, who has perhaps been taught to believe, under the teachings of the school afore said, that “temperance in eating” means vegetarianism, with all its weakening effects. But ours is the true doctrine, in our judgment, for all the northern and eastern states. We say less about hotter climates, because in those regions of perpetual fruits, there are other points to be considered. And it may be as well to add, that by meat diet, we do not mean the eating of meat cooked in grease and saturated there with—or in any made dishes—but meat simply cooked, broiled, roasted, or the like. This is the natural eating of man and woman, under the first and unbiased appetites, and confirmed afterwards by the experience and the researches of reason.