Walt Whitman is perhaps best known as the influential 19th-century American poet who caused quite the stir with his sexually-curious poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. But did you know that Walt was also a men’s health and fitness expert?
In 1858, right before the third edition of Leaves of Grass was published, Walt Whitman wrote a series of newspaper columns on “manly health and training.” In order not to spoil his literary name with such gauche undertaking, Walt shared his advice under a pseudonym. So, it took a while for his columns to resurface, over 150 years to be exact.
“Guard your manly power, your health and strength, from all hurts and violations—this is the most sacred charge you will ever have in your keeping.”
Thankfully, if you’ve ever wanted fitness advice from a 19th-century queer poet, here is your chance! His columns have been reprinted in Walt Whitman’s Guide to Manly Health and Training, a new book published this month by Ten Speed Press. Think of it as a “Song of My Self-Help.” LitHub published an excerpt from the introduction written by Walt himself. Notice his signature wit and style.
Walt Whitman’s columns tackled a lot of subjects with his signature wit and style, from career advice to boxing techniques to beard grooming tips, plus the best diet for achieving a clear skin. Walt even gives his insight on how to walk like a man. Not to mention, the secret to guarding your manly power. Rawr. Back then, drinking and dancing were also considered an important part of “manly health,” so Walt dishes on those subjects, too.