Found: Walt Whitman’s Guide to ‘Manly Health’

By Jennifer Schuessler

Whitman

Walt Whitman

In 1858, when Walt Whitman sat down to write a manifesto on healthy living, he came up with advice that might not seem out of place in an infomercial today.

Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else,” Whitman wrote, sounding more than a little paleo.

As for the feet, he recommended that the comfortable shoes “now specially worn by base-ball players” — sneakers, if you will — be “introduced for general use,” and he offered warnings about the dangers of inactivity that could have been issued from a 19th-century standing desk.

To you, clerk, literary man, sedentary person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice,” he declared. “Up!”

Whitman’s words, part of a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series called “Manly Health and Training,” were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.

Now, Whitman’s self-help-guide-meets-democratic-manifesto is being published online in its entirety by a scholarly journal, in what some experts are calling the biggest new Whitman discovery in decades.

This is really a complete new work by Whitman,” said David S. Reynolds, the author of “Walt Whitman’s America” and a professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, who was not involved with the find.

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