April 29, 2016

"Manly Health and Training" — a 47,000-word set of essays by Walt Whitman discovered by a grad student searching for Whitman's pseudonyms in a digitized newspaper database.

The University of Houston student, Zachary Turpin, found the pen name "Mose Velsor" in the database for The New-York Daily Tribune on Sept. 11, 1858, referring to something that was about to appear in The New York Atlas. Turpin ordered microfilm of The Atlas (which had not been digitized) from the relevant time period and saw that there were 13 installments: "It took about 24 hours for it to sink in."
“Manly Health,” with its references to “inspiration and respiration” and the importance of “electricity through the frame,” also echoes the language of earlier poems like “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric,” recasting their themes in the more concrete spirit of a self-improvement manual....

Whitman’s first installment strikes a vatic, exclamatory note: “Manly health! Is there not a kind of charm — a fascinating magic in the words?” he writes, before outlining the path to “a perfect body, a perfect blood.”

That torrent of advice that follows touches on sex, war, climate, bathing, gymnastics, baseball, footwear, depression, alcohol, shaving and the perils of “too much brain action and fretting,” in sometimes rambling prose....
“One of Whitman’s core beliefs was that the body was the basis of democracy,” [said Ed Folsom, the editor of The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review]. “The series is a hymn to the male body, as well as a guide to taking care of what he saw as the most vital unit of democratic living.”
That's quoted from The New York Times, under the dismayingly lightweight headline "Walt Whitman Promoted a Paleo Diet. Who Knew?"

The Times flags a possible racism issue:
Whitman... includes a racially tinged discussion of the advantages of “our Teutonic ancestors” and other people of the northern climes. “While Whitman doesn’t state openly that a great America is a white America, he does suggest these other races will fall away,” Mr. Turpin said.
There's a hefty excerpt here. I liked: 

A fine animal man!


mikee said...

I await the discovery of Obama's transcripts, Bill Clinton's health records, and Hillary Clinton's emails.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

A fine animal man, but hopefully not a Bear:

Spectator: Bear Brylls Celebrates a Masculinity that is Useless

Guardian: Grylls' Bad Notion of Masculinity

(For good measure) Independent: Gryll's Male-Only Survival Show is Sexist

Peter said...

"The Times flags a possible racism issue:"

I'd guess that Peak Racism occurred around 1914, and it would be surprising if Whitman did not absorb what was in his environment. Further, "teutonic ancestors" leads the contemporary reader inexorably to thoughts of 1930s Germany, but, it's hardly fair to blame Whitman for the 20th century.

But, if one strips away that blunt 19th century language, is what he's saying really all that different from this?


EDH said...

Didn't Bill Clinton routinely give Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" to his extramarital conquests?

Dan Hossley said...

I don't know which is worse. The NYT's warning label about "racially tinged views" or the implicit assumption that people today can't cope with the idea that our sensibilities are different today than 150 years ago.

Well, there goes his chance to put on the $50 dollar bill.

Birkel said...

Wait until the NYT finds out about the racism of Margaret Sanger!

Jason said...

Walt Whitman worked as a nurse during the Civil War, trying to mend the broken bodies of young men who lost limbs by the thousands in the fight to end slavery in the U.S. He also wrote beautifully about the dignity of blacks here in the U.S. in his poetry.

Fuck those people who call him a racist now.

MadisonMan said...

Things I find interesting in that article.

the editor of The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, the online journal that is publishing the series in its spring issue.

Whitman died in 1892 -- and yet there's a Quarterly Review on him?! While I agree this is a great place for the newly found documents to be published, what on Earth do they talk about otherwise?

“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.

So, an expert on Whitman who is coasting.

Kudos to Zachary Turpin, the grad student who unearthed this gem. I should think this would speed his progress towards a PhD.

TreeJoe said...

Ah yes, acknowledging differences in the physical characteristics of different genetic sets...let alone genders....is racist or sexist. Unless it's the right emphasis or disparagement.

All the while, nature don't care. Nature continues to afflict and benefit certain races, ethnicities, and genders with certain physical traits and maladies in heterogenous manner.

Nature is the honey-badger of this politically correct world.

traditionalguy said...

New York Values writ large with the vast vision of Walt Whitman.

Now if Trump can get Whitman's endorsement to go with Bob Knight's endorsement, he will have the American Man Card in full.

Fernandinande said...

The Times flags a possible racism issue:

Whitman wasn't a follower of a silly modern religion.

TreeJoe said...
All the while, nature don't care.

It sounds as if you've been reading Whitman.

Of the black question

"After the tender appeals of the sentimentalist, the eloquence of freedom's hottest orators, and the logic of the politico-economist, comes something else to the settlement of this question -comes Ethnological Science, cold, remorseless, not heeding at all the vehement abstractions of equality and fraternity, or any of the formulas thereof-uninfluenced by Acts of Congress, or Constitutional Amendments-by noiselessly rolling on like the globe in its orbit, like summer's heat or winter's cold, and settling these things by evolution, by natural selection by certain races notwithstanding all the frantic pages of the sentimentalists helplessly disappearing by the slow, sure progress of laws, through sufficient periods of time."

Tank said...

Must have found out Whitman is supporting Trump.

Fred Drinkwater said...

A woman should also be "a fine animal, sound and vigorous".
I biked up Monte Bello and Mt. Eden with my wife yesterday. 3000 feet of climb as steep as 15%, total ride 23 miles. That's the life.

Bay Area Guy said...

Walt Whitman 1, modern yuppies 0

My generation did not have a lot of Beta Males, but, oh boy, the generation after mine is a vanguard of indebted, metrosexual, peace-loving, Prius-driving, barristas.

Here's to Manly men!

Lance said...

It sounds too pat. A great big undiscovered Whitman oeuvre, found by a grad student, that presages modern received wisdom. And it touches various Whitman themes and styles.

There's nothing in the NYT article about authentication. How do they know this isn't a hoax?

buwaya said...

"Whitman died in 1892 -- and yet there's a Quarterly Review on him?! While I agree this is a great place for the newly found documents to be published, what on Earth do they talk about otherwise?"

This is the very problem with the Liberal Arts, especially literature. A lot of it is to be the curators of and disseminators of the cultural history of their society.
Their proper role, for the experts in the various fields, such as the works of Whitman, is to teach.
This is a a useful thing.
But they don't seem to think so, they feel that their role is to discover something new in some field picked over by generations of scholars under the same delusion. They must publish. Therefore they chase after imaginary rabbits, in foolishness like deconstruction, or feminist readings, or some such.
If they want to do something new, its best to do something new. Write a new literature.

buwaya said...

"A woman should also be "a fine animal, sound and vigorous"."

I enthusiastically agree with that!
None of these fainting Sylvia Plath types.
Still, wasn't Whitman gay? That may explain some things. Or maybe he wasn't.

Che Dolf said...

Fuck those people who call him a racist now.

Of course he was a racist. Stop flinching. The problem isn't Whitman, but the dogmatic, uncritical anti-racists who think they need to rationalize away his beliefs.

Paul Ciotti said...

I don't fault Walt Whitman in any way for taking pride in his Teutonic ancestry. I mean, if you are going to denounce racial pride you need to start with someone who really pushed the envelope, such as, for instance, Carl Rowan in his book, "The Coming Race War in America." Rowan uses the better part of an entire chapter to write an ode to the black penis. Among his maxims--"once you try black you'll never go back." Black penises aren't just big to him. They're "allegedly massive." Rowan was of course a total hack. But if he wants to take pride in his big black penis it's fine by me, same as if Whitman wants to take pride in Teutonic ancestors.

n.n said...

Deny thy mother and thy father. It is a reimagined masochistic pledge where people flay their skins to remove traces of imagined and manufactured sin.

n.n said...

A possible [class] diversity issue. The New York Times can drop the charade.

Sydney said...

I also wonder about the authenticity. The "Healthy Living" essay is under a pseudonym. How do they know it's Whitman's?

Sydney said...

Whitman... includes a racially tinged discussion of the advantages of “our Teutonic ancestors” and other people of the northern climes. “While Whitman doesn’t state openly that a great America is a white America, he does suggest these other races will fall away,” Mr. Turpin said.

This would not surprise me. At that time, society was quite taken with the success of agricultural breeding and the progress it made both in livestock and plants. It is why eugenics became so popular. They really believed in "good breeding." Especially the progressives!