In 1858, a 13-part column series titled Manly Health and Training was published in the New York Atlas by a man named Mose Velsor. These writings were recently rediscovered by Zachary Turpin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, and as Turpin knows, Velsor is one of the commonly used pseudonyms of Walt Whitman. Known more for his homoerotic-tinged works like Leaves of Grass, Manly Health sees Whitman diving into some pseudoscientific, and often amusing, gestures, although it is not entirely devoid of sound advice. The columns included bits about growing beards, diet, and taking cold baths, as highlighted below by NPR, courtesy of the University of Iowa's Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.
On beards: "The beard is a great sanitary protection to the throat — for purposes of health it should always be worn, just as much as the hair of the head should be. Think what would be the result if the hair of the head should be carefully scraped off three or four times a week with the razor! Of course, the additional aches, neuralgias, colds, &c., would be immense. Well, it is just as bad with removing the natural protection of the neck; for nature indicates the necessity of that covering there, for full and sufficient reasons."
On what to eat: "If you want to know what is best to a hearty man, who takes plenty of exercise and fresh air, and don't want any pimples on his face or body, we will answer, (perhaps very much to your astonishment,) a simple diet of rare-cooked beef, seasoned with a little salt, and accompanied with stale bread or sea-biscuit. Mutton, if lean and tender, is also commendable. Pork should not be eaten. Butter, pepper, catsup, oil, and most of the 'dressings,' must also be eschewed. Lobster and chicken salad, cabbage, cucumbers, and even potatoes, are to be turned away from. Salted meats are not to be partaken of either."
On cold baths: "We have spoken before of the morning ablutions — we mean the cool bath for the whole body. No doubt many of our readers will start back in dismay from such a proposition this weather [sic]; yet this is what we seriously mean. Not, be it well understood, for the feeble, the puny, the invalid, but for the robust, the young, and the sound only. This, cautiously begun, and by degrees formed into a habit, will so invigorate the whole surface as to make one indifferent during the day to the severest cold, and enjoy comfort in it, while others are chilly and shivering."
Manly Health is being republished by Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, and you can read all of its contents online here.