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Title: Manly Health and Training

Creator: Walt Whitman [listed as Mose Velsor]

Date: September 26, 1858

Whitman Archive ID: per.00425

Source: The New York Atlas 26 September 1858: [1]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue held at the American Antiquarian Society. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: Several pieces of bibliographic evidence establish this series as Whitman's. First, the sole advertisement for "Manly Health and Training"—a single-column notice appearing in the New York Atlas on September 12, 1858 (page 4)—matches a canceled manuscript of Whitman's. A draft advertisement for an original series on "Manly Training," the manuscript is almost identical to the final, published advertisement. (For the manuscript draft, see Whitman's Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, 6 vols., ed. Edward F. Grier [New York: New York University Press, 1984], 6:2255–6 [hereafter cited as NUPM]). For the final advertisement, see Zachary Turpin's "Introduction to Walt Whitman's 'Manly Health and Training'," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 33, no. 3 [2016]: 155.) Second, other health-related manuscripts include draft versions of language appearing in "Manly Health and Training." These include both Whitman's own words, and quotations cribbed for the series from a source familiar to the poet—Fowler and Wells' Water Cure Journal (see NUPM 6:2248–54). Finally, every installment of the series is signed "Mose Velsor, of Brooklyn," a byline that in the 1840s and '50s was one of Whitman's go-to pseudonyms. The pen name appears as early as 1848, in an article Whitman wrote for the New Orleans Daily Crescent on the "b'hoys of the Bowery." By the time of "Manly Health and Training," he had already used it a number of times—as when, in 1855, he signed it to both a Life Illustrated article on "The Opera" and an unpublished manuscript about "A Visit to the Opera" (NUPM 1:391).

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Zachary Turpin, and Kevin McMullen

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[Written for the New York Atlas.]

To teach the Science of a Sound and Beautiful Body







A fine lesson may be learned from the observance and history of the operation of putting a man in perfect condition for any great feat of strength and agility, such as a prize fight, a foot race, running, or the like. The trainers will sometimes take such a man, every way in a bad state, physically, from injurious habits of eating and drinking, want of exercise, &c., his blood bad, his complexion spotted with pimples, his joints nerveless, his tone and vigor at a very low ebb, his digestion poor, his pulse flighty, his animal temperature subject to great inward changes of heat and cold—and will, after gradually inaugurating them, establish such changes in his habits as will turn that man out in a few weeks a completely renovated being, feeling well, ooking well, with his muscular development carried to its ultimate degree of perfection, and all the bad humors drenched from his body.

Inquire how this wonderful change is wrought, and you will learn that it, by only a few and the most simple means, all of which lie in the reach of every man, and are not, after all, so very unpleasant in themselves, can be carried on consistently with the usual trade or employment of a mechanic, farmer, or any workingman.

In many cases, (though we do not think this quite so necessary as has been supposed—or rather, we believe the results can be attained just as well by other means,) it is usual to begin the operation of training a man by clearing out the system with medicine, an ordinary cathartic, (salts, or whatever else is found to answer the purpose,) and an emetic.1 This puts the stomach and bowels in a fit state for the future work.

From the first, of course, the greatest care is observed in the food. At the time of taking the clearing out medicine, only a little light aliment is given; and when the medicinal effects are worked off, which will be in a day or two, the man in training, if he be of too full habit, too heavy, must be restricted to a moderate diet, including, for a while, only one substantial meal of meat a-day; the breakfast being limited to a small portion of meat, or perhaps a nearly raw egg, a slice of dry bread, and, if desired, a cup of tea, to be drank only when quite cool.

The man rises at day-break, or soon after—if in winter, rather before. 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 rubbing the water over the body—and then coarse towels to rub dry with; after which, the hair gloves, the flesh-brush, or any thing handy, may be used, for friction, and to put the skin in a red glow all over. This, especially in cool weather, must all be done in a few minutes, or rather moments—not much longer than you have taken to read about it. Meanwhile, as soon as the glow is attained, the window, unless the weather is very bad, should be opened, and the door also, so that the room may become filled with good fresh air—for the play of the respiratory organs will be increased by the performances just mentioned, and it is at such times that good air tells best. Keep briskly moving all this while, however.

There is no objection, when this is through, to the man taking a crust of bread, or a piece of sea-biscuit. Then for a brisk walk, or some other exercise, of half an hour, or an hour, according to circumstances; at this, very heavy soled shoes, carrying weight, may be used—lighter at first and increased by degrees. Or if one is not inclined for a walk, the dumb-bells, or some gymnastic exercises. Whatever is done, however, ought to be in the open air; don't be afraid of that—drink it in—it won't hurt you—there is a curious virtue in it, to be found in nothing else.

This brings us to an early breakfast hour. Usually the breakfast, for a hearty man, might consist in a plate of fresh rare lean meat, without fat or gravy, a slice or chunk of bread, and, if desired, a cup of tea, which must be left till the last. If there be boiled potatoes, and one of them is desired, it may be permitted. Ham, gravy, fried potatoes, and a list too long and numerous to mention, of dishes often found on the breakfast table of boarding houses and restaurants, must be eschewed. Fortunately, there is hardly a table set but it affords something that will answer, at a pinch, for a meal.2

The great art lies in what to avoid and what to deny one's self.

After breakfast, in the case of a man who has work to do, (for we are writing for the general public, as well as the sporting man,) he will go about his employment. One who has not, and who is devoting his attention, at the time, to the establishment of health and a manly physique, will do well to spend an hour of the forenoon (say from 10 to 11 o'clock,) in some good exercise for the arms, hands, breast, spine, shoulders, and waist; the dumb-bells, sparring, or a vigorous attack on the sand-bags, (a large bag, filled with sand, and suspended in such a position that it can be conveniently struck with the fists.) This should be done systematically, and gradually increased upon making the exertion harder and harder.

A pretty long walk may also be taken, commencing at an ordinary pace, and increasing the rapidity of the step till it takes the power of locomotion pretty well, and then keeping it up at that gait, as it can be well endured—not to the extent of fatigue, however, for it is a law of training that a man must not exercise so hard at any time as to overdo and tire himself; but always stop in time to avoid fatigue. We mean, of course, the sense of being fagged out, wearied, unable to do any more. We repeat the caution elsewhere given, to take everything very moderately and gently at first, and let all come on by slow degrees.

Rowing is also a good exercise during this time of the day. Those engaged in this as their regular employment, (we may say, en passant,) ought to understand that they have one of the finest occupations in the world, for health, strength, and a fine development of the form. By a tolerable attention to the laws of physiology, they could present a race of men, almost without exception for vigor, and for manly beauty.

From three quarters to half an hour before dinner, all violent exercise must cease. If the body is sweaty, as it very likely will be, it is best to strip, rub down briskly with dry cloths, and change the underclothes.

Dinner should consist of a good plate of fresh meat, (rare lean beef, broiled or roast, is best) with as few outside condiments as possible. (If thirsty during the forenoon, drink, but never before eating.) Eat according to your appetite, of one dish—always, if possible, making four or five dinners out of the week, of rare lean beef, with nothing else than a small slice of stale bread. Or, if preferred, lean mutton, cooked rare, may be eaten instead of beef, at times, for variety. No scraggly, grisly fat, or hard cooked pieces, should be eaten. Nor need the appetite be stinted—eat enough, and when you eat that, stop!3

No man should be required to do any toilsome work or exercise immediately after dinner; if there be anything you know you will have to take hold of immediately, then make the dinner lighter, for it is more hurtful than is supposed, to exert one's physical powers greatly, on a hearty meal.

(We cannot resist the impulse to condemn here, what we consider the frightfully injurious dinners and dinner habits of most people who, as they would call it, "live well." Look over the bill of fare of any hotel or restaurant, or even the dinner-table of an ordinary boarding-house—see the incongruous dishes that, on the bills, stand in long lists, and that men devour, often three or four different kinds—soups, pastry, fat, fish, flesh, gravy, pickles, pie, pudding, coffee, water, ale, brandy—and heaven knows what else! Not one out of fifty eats a really wholesome, manly, substantial dinner. All, more or less, distend the stomach, and bloat themselves with quantities of trash, to worry the digestion, thin the blood, and return, sooner or later, in lassitude, headache, constipation, or a fever, or some other attack of illness.)4

The afternoon, unless it be spent in the regular work—and in most cases, unless it be a prize fight or the like, we believe that the operation of training a man for his condition may go on just as well, if he continue about his daily work. The afternoon may be spent with the same objects in view as the morning. If, during the latter, the exercises have tended to develope the chest and arms, the afternoon may be devoted more to the locomotive organs. A long walk may be taken—or a good game at leaping, or any of the games that tax the legs—straddling, standing on one leg and dipping to the ground, so as to touch the other knee, &c.

We have thus indicated the mode of filling up the hours of the day; but still more is necessary. After a moderate supper, of some digestible dish, fruit, or cold meat, or stale bread, toast, or biscuit, with perhaps a cup of tea—the evenings ought to be devoted, to some extent at least, to friendly and social recreation, (not dissipation, remember.) Friends may be visited, or some amusement, or a stroll in company—or any other means that will soothe and gratify the mind and the affections, friendship, &c.—for every man should pride himself on having such affections, and satisfying them, too.

Ten o'clock at night ought to find a man in bed—for that will not afford him the time requisite for rest, if he rise betimes in the morning. The bed-room must not be small and close—that would go far toward spoiling all other observances and cares for health. It is important that the system should be clarified, through the inspiration and respiration, 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.


Such is the exclamation we fancy we hear from the reader, upon perusing what appear to him, no doubt, at first, very hard requirements. What man, among the masses who, in their various occupations, toil for their living, in city or country, can possibly conform to the strict letter of these laws of health? Have not most people enough to do to get something to eat, without being so very particular what it shall be, and how it is cooked?

We are well aware that, to those unaccustomed to consider the laws of health and a sound physique, there will appear at first something quite alarming and impracticable in these requirements. But they are really more so in appearance, and from their novelty, than anything else. So long as a man has to have something purchased for his sustenance, why may he not as well have that which is best, as that which is no good? On the score of economy, we have everything on our side—and, under what we promulge, the expenses of living would be reduced at least one third.

We know, at the same time, that men in various employments have not that chance of following out their judgment and choice in these things that would allow of their rigidly fulfilling the laws, at every point. Yet even these can come a great deal nearer the fulfilment than they now suppose. It needs mainly the knowledge and determination in a man's self—then all becomes comparatively easy, and obstacles melt away, one after another.

Besides, we are willing to admit that our exact statements with regard to diet—what must be avoided, and the few simple articles of food that, coincident with exercise, strength, digestion, &c., may be used—are to be often modified to suit cases, tastes, &c., each one for itself. We have made the statement of a model case; if the reader approaches the neighborhood of it, he will be doing well.


The results of properly chosen and well-continued courses of training are so valuable and so numerous that in mentioning them we would seem to be mentioning most of the precious treasures of character—among the rest may be specified courage, quickness of all the perceptions, full use of power, independence, fortitude, good nature, a hopeful and sunny temper, an industrious disposition, temperance in all the alimentative appetites, chastity, an aversion to artificial indulgences, easy manners without affectation, personal magnetism, a certain silent eloquence of expression, and a general tendency to the wholesome virtues and to that moral uprightness which arises out of and is the counterpart to the physical.

For we cannot too often and too strongly promulgate the fact of the inevitable and curious conjunction, or rather resultance, of a fine manly moral character, out of a perfect physique. If there be those of our sporting fraternities who fail in realizing this point, it is so much loss to them and to their completeness of development, even on their own terms and for their own purposes. Why should it be so? There is truly no reason for it. The true theory and the indications are all the other way.

We are of those who believe, therefore, that a certain natural moral goodness is developed in proportion with a sound physical development—and also that a true system of training, that which aims to do justice to the complete man and his highest powers, (and what other system deserves the name?) will, on no account, ignore the seeds and fruits of a noble moral character.

This much we feel impelled to say, because confident are we not only that those called under the general name of the sporting fraternity, and, indeed, all who take an interest, or have a part in, physical training and manly games and exercises, would be vastly improved in their own special branches, by realizing this moral part of the theory of training, which, indeed, is its crowning glory and natural result—but we are equally sure that there exists, through all the grades and classes we have just alluded to, the very stuff and material of the kind of superior qualities we demand. They may be, doubtless are, in the crude and rough state—but they are there.

Reader, if you be one of that exclusive kind w ho suppose that manly actions and an honorable character belong only to one or two departments of society, and those the ones that profess the greatest virtue, let us undeceive you—let us hint to you that perhaps there is equal, possibly at times even greater manliness and heroism, in what are called less pious degrees of the social strata—even that very sporting fraternity we spoke of.


Of exercises, games, gymnastics, &c., the reader must understand well that we inculcate the regular and appropriate practising of them not as a frivolous pastime, or a matter of ceremony and politeness, to be done in a genteel club way, but as a real live thing, a part of a robust and perfect man. And all the rest of the habits are to be consistent. There is no sham or make-believe about this business of entering on the development, purification, strengthening and gracefulness of the body; but it is something to be carried out with an earnest, conscientious, persevering soul.

We say conscientiously, and we mean all that is involved in the word. The man must himself feel the importance of the objects to be attained, and an enthusiastic, yet in a certain sense calm determination to strive for them, not for a little while merely, but for a long while, at work or play, in company or alone, in one place or another, and night and day. Habit will soon make all easy; and let us inform you, reader, there is no small pleasure in the victory one attains, by a little sternness of will, over all deleterious gratifications of appetite. It is as great as a general gaining an important battle.


Let us be plain with you, reader. Under the impulse of studying our articles, and awakened very strongly to the idea of health and a sound condition, you will very likely commence carrying into practice the advice we have jotted down for your benefit. After a shorter or longer time, it is quite certain to us there will be a relapse, however, into the old and more careless ways. A great revolution, a new system of physical habits, cannot be inaugurated quite so easily as you thought. Consequently, with the best intentions in the world, there is still lamentable backsliding.

But the work must not be given up for the first failure—nor even for the second, third, nor any number. It will gradually grow easier and easier, and habit will then make it followed, without thinking anything about it.

It is a great pity that about half the time spent by preachers and teachers in attention to moral and intellectual training, were not dispensed with, and bestowed on the encouragement of young men in training and perfecting their bodies. As things are, the subject is seldom mentioned in a way to arouse the lethargic, urge on the flagging, and reward those who have set a noble example.

It must be realized, throughout, that perpetual care is indispensable to health. It is just as reasonable to suppose you can squander your fortune at random, and still find it remaining at the end of many years, as that you can squander your health and have that remain. Look at those young mechanics, in Boston, New York, or Philadelphia! Look at the many fine specimens of drivers, teamsters, firemen, lumbermen, baymen, pilots, &c.! What examples of strength, beauty, and activity! What fine color in the complexion—grace in the movement—heartiness in the whole structure and appearance! Is it not lamentable that, for the want of a little knowledge and care, all these noble blessings will, probably, by degrees, be lost to them, far too prematurely? For, let us inform you, reader, if you be young, that the years of your middle age ought to be those not only of your best performances, but of your best appearance—and, if you so will it, may be. Then all has become ripe and mature; and surely the fully ripened fruit or flower is no less beautiful and welcome than any stage which precedes it.

Such are the reflections which must often arise from an observant person, at seeing the way in which American young men scatter the rich treasures of their health, to grow old before their time, and to lose, perhaps, the best and mellowest portion of life, a happy middle, and a contented old age.


This carries us to another statement. He who has the idea of proficiency in any art, as music for example, will understand of what importance it is to keep in perpetual practice. Well, it is of just as much, or rather, it is of infinitely more importance, that he who would be a proficient in manly health and strength, should also keep in perpetual practice.

As things are, it is only on some extra occasion, as a race, a physical contest in the prize ring, &c., that men submit themselves to training. But we would have it a regular and systematic thing through life. Not only in young manhood, but in middle age, and in advanced age, also, modified to suit its appropriate requirements, should the course of training be persevered in, without intermission. We place the greatest reliance upon the forming of the habit, and therefore repeat it many times in these articles.

Neither season, place, nor circumstance should prevent the regular course of training, or as near to it as matters will allow. It is the resolution, the disposition, that is of the main consequence; with that, all obstacles will be overcome. The true benefits of training, indeed, lie in their permanent continuance; it is an affair for the whole life.

We would have exercises for all ages, without excepting any—requiring only that they should be fitted properly to each stage, modified to each individual case. There is no time of life to which the training processes do not apply, and would not improve those who use them, both for the time being and subsequently. As to the objection to any gymnastic exercises, that they are only fitted for young and robust men, and not for the feeble or old, we reply that the true and comprehensive system of gymnastics must include exercises appropriate to those very cases of weak, or very young, or more advanced persons, or else it is no complete system, and needs to be improved upon.

Yes, training for all ages of life, each adjusted to peculiarities, wants, and circumstances—always tenderly considering the average ability of the person, young or old, to bear fatigue, and never overtaxing or straining his powers, but letting them gradually and gently develope themselves.

One of the faults to be guarded against, in gymnastic, and indeed all the exercises of training, is the wish to get along too fast. The body is too complicated and exquisite a piece of work to be suddenly brought to bear upon, for any lasting good effects of this sort. It ought to be considered enough if the general course of exercise, health and developement be started in the right direction, and kept in it, and then let the results be patiently waited for.


We must dwell a moment specially here. Let it not be supposed that this question of exercise presents but one side, and that evil to the general health comes from not enough activity. Much is to be said also of the injury of casually overtasking the frame, as is done by many persons, and often at the very times of life when the injury is most fatal to the future soundness and perfection of the body—we mean youth and early manhood. This we think markedly the case in the country, among the farmers. The boys are put to hard work there too soon, and kept at it too tight. That is the reason we see (for such is the truth) fewer manly and agile forms among the young men of the country than those of the city.

Excessive toil, whether of the body or the mind, is just as hurtful to health and longevity, be it understood, as the stagnant condition of the organs which it has been the drift of our preceding remarks to guard against. We would also caution the young men against any very violent draughts upon the strength, such as an exhausting struggle or run, when the body is not prepared for it by previous training. It may have to be paid for very dearly.

Carpenters, masons, farmers, laborers, men at work on the shipping, and all at active out-door occupations, of course have a fair share of exercise already. This is so much gained. With them, however, it by no means follows but that a steady and judicious course of athletic training, from time to time, (whenever not prevented by the occasionally severe toil which makes rest the thing wanted,) would greatly improve their physical capacities also. Those parts of the body should be especially attended to which are least called into use by the trade or occupation; for instance, drivers should develope the use and strength of the legs, by walking, leaping, pushing weights with the feet, &c.

Clerks, bookkeepers, literary persons, &c., need a regular, but never too violent, exercise of the whole of the frame, chest, arms, spine, legs and feet. They need early rising, simple food, and, almost always, would be bettered by acquiring more of an animal physique—unfashionable though it be.

Merchants, lawyers, professional people, politicians, &c., (and perhaps the American people generally,) need a little more contentment of mind—the disposition to enjoy life and not fret, but to be happy with moderation or even a little.


Take notice, as we talk, that our standard of health is not a small one, but a high one. Many of those who dash about, city and country, with an artificial glow, kept up by the excitement of company or business, and ready to collapse the moment those impulses are withdrawn, such are by no means our models of health. We speak of the real article, able to stand a great deal of buffeting and deprivation—health deeply founded, ingrained with the life, calculated to last many years, and (being encouraged by regular habits,) more to be noticed by its quiet, steady, and continued movement, than by any abrupt and striking manifestations.

It is no small thing to be perfectly well. The case is one, in our civilized and artificial forms of life, alas, how rare! It is useless to blink the unpleasant conviction that in America, all through the large cities, and even in the country, where it might be less expected, the amount of ill health, or just passable health, is enormous! Consumption, dyspepsia, rheumatism, chills and fever, and bilious attacks of one sort or another, are met with in all directions. Through the streets of New York, looking at the faces of a large majority of the men you pass—even the youths. They are not the faces of perfect health—and yet nearly all could be.


For it is not to be denied that physical inferiority, in one form or another, is the rule rather than the exception. Seriously examined, what a condition does the health of the masses every where present. Probably one-fourth of the whole population of the world dies of consumption, or of diseases that have sprouted up from it.5 Thousands upon thousands suffer from some form of scrofula, and are afflicted with sores and ulcers, interior or exterior. Half the people you meet have, at times, pimples and pustules on the face and neck, indicating that health is anything but clear with them. Indeed there are few, in any rank of life, but labor under some disorder of the blood.

Of late years, in the United States, the general illness, perhaps transcending all the rest, is dyspepsia. This is the fruitful mother of dozens of other complaints—for the regular and complete assimilation, digestion, and excretion, are the primal requisites of health. The fast living of Americans, and the general use of hot bread, grease, and strong coffee, are supposed to be the causes of this great New World complaint. But there are habits prevailing and articles of diet commonly eaten and imbibed as drink, in Germany, Holland, England, &c., far more indigestible than those just named, and yet the Dutch and English are not dyspeptic. What then are the causes here?

Rheumatism is another prevalent complaint. Rare indeed, is the case of man or woman who has never felt a twinge of this distressing malady. Bilious attacks are very common in the west, and indeed in all parts of the land.

A too-feverish life, mentally and physically, with too little physical calmness, and also a feeble paternity and maternity, are some of the main underlying causes of this frightful state of things. We are not disposed to grumble or overstate the evil condition of the public physique; we wish to call attention to the fact how easily most of these deficiencies might be remedied. Our theory is that America has mentality enough, but needs a far nobler physique.


There can be no good health, or manly and muscular vigor to the system, without thorough and regular digestion. It is doubtless here that four-fifths of the weaknesses, breakings-down, and premature deaths, of Americans begin. On all sides we see the proofs of this last assertion—on all sides we see results of the same. If the harm that accrues to the physical perfection of the race, here in the United States, from this one cause, were obviated for the space of time long enough to allow a single generation to grow up and advance toward maturity, we should probably see the most splendid and majestic nation of men, in their physique, that ever trod the earth!

So great a part as that, does the little matter of the right digestion of the food we eat, bear upon the most momentous of subjects—for what can be more momentous than the growth of a perfect race of men? All other rules and requisites may be attended to, but if the stomach be out of order, and allowed to remain so for any length of time, all will be of no avail. We are fain to alter one of the stereotyped sayings of the politicians, and say, Eternal vigilance is the price of—digestion!

In what is written so copiously on the subject of indigestion, it is customary to mention long lists of articles to be prohibited, and others to be allowed. This is perhaps well enough—except that the reader will be led very far astray if he take it for granted that the whole story is told with that. It must also be understood that indigestion, and all its brood of evils, will take birth and grow to full proportions, from other causes, just as well as from the use of articles on the list of prohibited food. Indeed, if other things make up for it sufficiently, almost any article of food may be eaten with impunity. And if certain of these prime requisites of a good condition be wanting, why all the care in selecting aliment of easy digestion will be of no avail. How healthy, for instance, are the sailors, on their diet of salt beef, sea-biscuit, and strong coffee.

We do not intend here, great as the importance of this section of our subject is, to dwell minutely or at large upon it—partly because we think that each individual requires the application of special rules to his own particular case—partly because the subject of digestion is, in effect, treated of and affected by the whole tenor of our paragraphs, under almost every one of the different headings of our subject—and partly because the main thing is to impress upon him who really wishes to acquire perfect health, that equal and thorough digestion is indespensible; and when that impression is produced, then the most a hasty writer on the subject can do, is done. Too many rules are apt to confuse—and besides they are liable to continual exceptions.

We say to you, reader, do justice to the peculiarities of your own case, with regard to your particular wants, strength, age, trade, previous and present circumstances, &c.; always having in view the main object, regular digestion. Do not depend on medicines to place your stomach in order; that is but casting out devils through Belzebub, the prince of devils.

As a general thing, at a meal, if nothing very bad indeed is eaten, and if the selection of food be confined to dishes that relate to each other, and if the stomach be not deluged with liquid, it may do to follow, in reason, the demands of the taste and appetite. A few plain dishes, however, should always have the preference.

But it is perhaps apart from the body of our meals that indigestion takes its rise. We have been laying too much stress where it does not belong—like the man who denied himself a mild little glass of wine, and then ate a large dish of lobster salad, plastered over with oil and spices! If one were to be satisfied with eating his natural meals, following a natural appetite, and then stop, most of the trouble that exists would probably be avoided.

It is the afterclaps that do the mischief. Modern taste and ingenuity have contrived not a hundred, but hundreds of solid and liquid stimulants, artificial tastes, condiments—and these, in some of their various forms are partaken of by all. By him who is determined to place his vigor and health above par, from his mouth and stomach, these must be rigidly excluded. Simple and hearty food, and no condiments, must be his motto. This too is the continual lesson of nature. By reason of it, we see that fine state of health which characterises hunters, lumbermen, raftsmen, and sailers on shipboard. For in those situations the living is invariably coarse and solid, without delicacies. Of course, too, the open air and the habits of muscular exercise, must receive their due allowance. But are not exercise and the open air within the reach of us all?

In America, a great deal of the indigestion that prevails, is the result (we cannot too often recur to this,) of a cause we have elsewhere alluded to, excessive mental action. Those who think much, or whose business cares return upon the mind, and are brooded over and over, are often, perhaps generally, the very men whose habit it is to eat copiously of rich viands, perhaps at the hotel table, and to deluge the stomach with liquids. How can any one bear up under such inflictions, when the same person is probably the one who, week after week, and year after year, takes no systematic exercise, and does not know even what the training for health means?

Next week we shall go over the important question of when ought a man to be in his primest condition, and how long? There will, we think, be some points in this matter, that will be new to most of our readers.


1. Emetics are substances that induce vomiting; cathartics induce defecation. [back]

2. Whitman is almost certainly describing a diet like his own. Compare a letter he writes to John and Ursula Burroughs on August 18, 1874: "To-day I am feeling very comfortable, sitting here in the front room by the open window writing this—eat this morning quite a respectable breakfast, beefsteak, bread, & tea—& at about 3 shall make a light, moderate bite of dinner—no supper—I find I get along best with one pretty fair-meal only, & that I make breakfast." Among many other descriptions of meals in his correspondence, see also a letter Whitman writes to his niece, Jessie Louisa Whitman, on March 6, 1887: "Well I had my dinner, cold meat, hot potatoes, nice stew'd tomatoes & onions, & a cup of tea & Graham bread—enjoyed all—Am feeling pretty well these times." [back]

3. This dietary regimen departs significantly from the then-popular vegetarian recommendations of the Fowlers, Wells, Graham, and others. For a possible source (beyond Whitman's own preferences) of this installment's insistence on lean beef, stale bread, mutton, water, walking, exercise, training, early rising, and so on, see Donald Walker's Walker's Manly Exercises (1840, 1855), especially circa page 14. [back]

4. For a similar list of forbidden foods and health afflictions, see Whitman's article on "Health" in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (September 28, 1846), in which he quotes similar passages from Mary Sargeant Gove's Lectures to Women on Anatomy and Physiology. [back]

5. At the time, "consumption," or tuberculosis, was responsible annually for roughly one in every 500 deaths in New York City. [back]


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