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Houston Matters

Houston Scholar Discovers a Lost ‘Manly’ Side of Walt Whitman

Zach Turpin unearthed a previously unknown essay by Whitman.


Walt Whitman, best known for his collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass.


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Walt Whitman Engraving - Gabriel Harrison - Mrgan Library and MuseumIn his famous volume of poetry, Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman wrote, "Give me the splendid, silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling." That’s the kind of free verse we’re used to reading from the celebrated American poet.

But it turns out he also wrote word like this: "Guard your manly power…from all violations — this is the most sacred charge you will ever have in your keeping."

That quote is taken from Manly Health and Training, an unknown, 13-part, 47,000-word essay the poet wrote under the pseudonym Mose Velsor. The essay was published in 13 weekly installments by the now-defunct newspaper New York Atlas, and it represents a once-missing puzzle piece from Whitman's life in the mid 1800s.

The discovery has excited the literary world. But how was it found and linked to Whitman?

Zach Turpin, a University of Houston doctoral candidate in English, made the discovery and explains to Houston Matters producer Paige Phelps — an admitted non-Whitman scholar — what it teaches us about the man who once wrote in the poem Song of Myself “I contain multitudes."

Song Of My Self-Help: Follow Walt Whitman’s ‘Manly Health’ Tips (Or Maybe Don’t) (NPR, April 30, 2016)
UH Student Uncovers Walt Whitman’s ‘Manly Health and Fitness’ (Houston Chronicle, April 29, 2016)

Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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