In Competition No. 3001 you were invited to take inspiration from the recently published Walt Whitman’s Guide to Manly Health and Training and supply an extract from a similar guide penned by another well-known writer.
While Whitman extols the benefits of stale bread and fresh air and cautions against eating between meals, Fiona Pitt-Kethley’s John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester advocates a rather less ascetic approach: ‘Swiving’s the only manly exercise/ To tone the glutes and work the inner thighs/ No bench presses, go press a wench instead./ Roll up your yoga mat and go to bed.’ In a small but distinguished entry Mike Morrison takes £30; his fellow winners are rewarded with £25 each.
A man must live on the grand scale. To be of this world is to perform a five-act opera. Learn from me the script. Half measures are for women and boys alone. It is essential to your wellbeing that you pursue big game hunting, sea fishing. Boxing, mountain climbing. Bullfighting; siempre la corrida. Modern men need cojones or we are nothing. Grilled or fried, they make us one with el toro. Keep good people around you. In Paris I knew Pound, Fitzgerald, Gert Stein, Jim Joyce. Sound, steady types.
Marry often, a woman respects you more. I’m on my fourth; each time is better. And drink deep, alcohol is to be used in earnest. Breakfast on margaritas, five-a-day minimum although nine is healthier. Then may your intended tasks commence. Adhering strictly to this regimen, you will find that life blows you away.
Mike Morrison/Ernest Hemingway
A chap can feel considerably put out if the word is he’s not up to it physically. When a nameless worm revealed that Tuppy Glossop had told Bobby Wickham that I am ‘weedy’, with supplementary uncalled-for mentions of rice puddings and paper bags, there was no comfort in cocktails. It was a case for Jeeves, and he responded with admirable promptness.
‘If what sir wishes is the body of Hercules the answer is a chest expander. Available for less than a guinea at Selfridges.’
‘Excellent, Jeeves. I knew I could count on you. A pill, is it?’
A pill it was not. As Jeeves explained it, it entailed miming a bear tearing apart the body of an immiserated peasant on the Russian steppes.
I sat down, flummoxed.
‘I can’t do that.’
‘I fear it’s that or nothing.’
‘Then dash it, it’s nothing.’
‘As you so wisely say, sir.’
P.G. Wodehouse/G.M. Davis
You can walk howsomever and it does you good, a stride at a time, and your two feet in the two boots at the end of your legs. A catalectic tetrameter of iambs marching will see you through, world without end.
This is the democratic exercise, the equality of a city going about its clouded profundity. It takes you into that portal of discovery, a public house, all the manliness sage asks, relished on the inner organs of beasts, and fuelled on the urine tang of grilled mutton kidneys, drowning with the best.
All the yeses in the world you rudely crave to adore give a bloom to the blood, to your fatchuck cheekchops, and what for are those yeses except the best exercises in the wallow of plump pump clumping and the creamy never-felt-better after.
And what more’s a man to be in train for?
D.A. Prince/James Joyce
Health? There used to be a lot of it about where I come from. Manly Health, that’s what it was. Yes. Out in the morning, fresh morning, all the blood coursing through the veins, straight from the heart, breathe in, breathe out. Out. Ah yes. Manly… Health. No word of a lie. (Pause.) If you want… if you want Training, what you want is a club, an Indian club. A meel. I’ve met blokes who speak of the knobkerrie, but that won’t do. No. You need a polished Indian club, like my Uncle Sid used to use. Up in the dawn, wax his moustache, first on parade ground, legs akimbo, thirty-two rotations before breakfast, and all his sweat was good. What? It was honest. The birds, the little tiny birds, they used to stop flying and perch, just to watch him. (Pause.) Sometimes they called them skittles.
Bill Greenwell/Harold Pinter
The Ones-Who-Know demand the body be a machine, no deus just machina. That accursed horde proselytise a fake-science of ‘manly’ health and training. We must use instead the intuitive life force to shape and purify our soul-body. In the gymnasium there must be no ‘experts’, no former Army officers barking orders. No diagrams. There must be dance music, poetry, but no philosophers, no women. Philosophers and women fear the Aztec strength of male health, they fear straight backbones and proper deportment. They want to suppress man’s sensual centres. They, and the bogus training-class, want to impose on us a regime based on the fixed and deadly Will. The Etruscans danced, wrestled and fluted their way to their soul-body excellence. They did not need to quantify their muscle strength or food intake. The soul-body is being coerced into racing towards sickness and deformation. We must rise up and encircle with flames the Penetralia of our true Being.
Michael Jones/D.H. Lawrence
Young Shropshire lads who make a pledge
To grow up manly, fit and strong
Should walk in shorts on Wenlock Edge,
Where carnage haunts the whimbrel’s song.
The healthy stride, the virile tread
Will forge their muscle and their nerve
And stir the blood which when they’re dead
Will flood the fields on which they serve.
The glow on youthful, growing thighs
After a long, perspiring stroll
Proclaims the lusty exercise
That fits men for a soldier’s role.
On Wenlock Edge, their eyes agleam
With sad desire, though out of breath,
They follow a robust régime
That renders striplings fit for death.
Basil Ransome-Davies/A.E. Housman
No. 3004: what alice did next
You are invited to submit an extract of up to 150 words from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Trumpland. Please email entries to email@example.com by midday on 21 June.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.