October 10, 1858
Walt Whitman cites many famous vegetarians known for their wisdom, but instead calls it "a little enthusiastic", thereby calling "vegetarians gaunt, hard, melacholy, and unhappy looking persons"
Manly Health and Training
We neither practice the vegetarian system ourselves, nor do we recommend itto others as anything like whatits enthusiastic advocates claim it to be; and yet we think vegetarianism well worth a respectful mention. From the most ancient times, the system has come down to us under the most venerable authority. Nearly all of the early philosophers and saints appear to have been men who observed this diet; and, it must also be said, nearly all of them obtained a very advanced period of life. In the remarks elsewhere given on longevity, the cases mentioned, as near as can be authenticated, made use of that kind of aliment altogether, or nearly altogether. Newton, the astronomer, it is well known, in his profound and intricate discoveries, sometimes occupying his powers for weeks and months at a time, lived on vegetable food, and drank water only; thus forming a habit from which he seldom departed, and attaining to his eighty-fifth year. Boyle, the great chemist, although of extremely delicate constitution, by the simplicity and regularity of living, abstaining from animal food, and also by drinking nothing but water, preserved his useful life far beyond all expectation, dying in his sixth-sixth [sic] year—where most others would, in all probability, not have attained to half that age.
We recollect reading in an old book of travels a description by the traveler, of the head official of a Spanish convent of monks, an aged man, who had always lived upon vegetable food, and whose drink had been water only. He wore, says our traveler, a large garment of coarse cloth, tied at the waist with a rope, and having a hood for his head; and on his feet coarse shoes of half-tanned leather. Yet there was something in his appearance which would have enabled one to single him out at once from a whole fraternity. He had a lofty and towering form, and features of the very noblest mould. His beard descended low upon his breast, and was partly hid in the folds of his dress. The man was one who in any spot would attract attention, but as he stood there at the entrance of his convent, in addition to the effect of his apostolic garment, his complexion and his eye had a clearness that no one can conceive who is not familiar with the aspect of those who have practised a long and rigid abstinence from animal food, and from every exciting aliment. It gives a lustre, a spiritual intelligence to the countenance, that has something saint-like and divine.
This is, of course, a little enthusiastic. We have seen New England and New York vegetarians, gaunt, hard, melancholy, and unhappy looking persons, that looked like anything else than a recommendation of their doctrine—for that is the proof, after all.
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