The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Very Family Papers
0.5 linear feet (1 box)
The Very Family Papers contain
the papers of Jones Very (1813-1880), a transcendentalist poet, and his sister,
Lydia Very (1823-1901), an author and illustrator.
SERIES I. Jones Very Papers SERIES II. Lydia Very Papers SERIES III. Miscellaneous Very Family Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Very Family Papers contain the papers of Jones Very (1813-1880), a
transcendentalist poet, and his sister, Lydia Very (1823-1901), an author and
Series I. Jones Very Papers, 1836-1880, contain a
miscellaneous group of his manuscripts. These include an early arithmetic book, his
essay "What reasons are there for not expecting another epic poem", which won the
Bowdoin prize at Harvard, his 1836 Harvard diploma, a letter from Ralph Waldo
Emerson dated November 18, 1838, and an 1852 Almanac Diary. Also included are copies
of letters about Jones Very which were solicited by Dr. Henry Wheatland for the
Jones Very Memorial Meeting held at the Essex Institute in 1880.
Series II. Lydia Very Papers, 1840-1896, contain two
sketchbooks, greeting cards, sketches, and manuscripts for two books by Lydia Very.
The sketchbook contains engaging illustrations of children. The Painted Columbine contains five poems on the columbine by
Jones Very illustrated by Lydia. The book has an original Jones Very manuscript of
the Painted Columbine glued in the back.
Series III. Miscellaneous Very Family Papers includes
receipts and correspondence.
Jones Very, transcendentalist poet,
was born in 1813 in Salem, Massachusetts, the oldest of the six children of Jones
and Lydia (Very) Very. As a young boy, Jones sailed with his father, a ship captain,
to Russia and New Orleans. After being tutored for four years by J.P. Worcester,
Jones became an assistant in Henry Kemble Oliver's Fisk Latin School. There he was
able to earn tuition expenses and entered Harvard in 1834 as a sophomore. After
graduation in 1836, he was appointed a Greek tutor for freshmen, which allowed him
to pursue studies at the Harvard Divinity School. In 1837, Very evidently had some
sort of religious experience and, believing that he could directly communicate with
the Holy Ghost, he wrote a series of religious sonnets. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody
introduced Very to Ralph Waldo Emerson who admired Very's poems and essays. Emerson
helped Very prepare a collection of his writing Essays and
Poems, which was published in 1839. Very's religious fervor caused his
Harvard colleagues to question his sanity and he was relieved of his teaching duties
in 1838. After his dismissal, he entered McLean Asylum, then located in Somerville,
for a month.
Very moved back to Salem in 1840, where he lived until his death. He never
completed his divinity degree but was licensed to preach in 1843 by the Cambridge
Association. Very held various temporary posts including one in Eastport, Maine, and
North Beverly, Massachusetts. The years 1836 to1838 were Very's most productive and
successful. After 1840, Very continued to write poetry sporadically, but none of his
later work contained the inspirations and religious fervor of his earlier work. He
died in 1880.
Lydia Louisa Ann Very, author and illustrator, was born
in Salem in 1823, the youngest child of Jones and Lydia (Very) Very. She was
educated in the Salem public school. Between 1846 and 1876, she taught primary
grades at Henry Kemble Oliver's classical school in Salem. Lydia never married and
lived with her mother, sister Frances, and brothers Jones and Washington at 154
Lydia Very's poems and prose pieces appeared in various Salem and Boston
newspapers. In 1856, her first small volume, Poems, was
published. In 1890, it was reprinted with additional poems and essays added as Poems and Prose Writings. Her additional books include
two nature books: An Old Fashioned Garden, and Walks and
Musings Therein (1900), and Sayings and Doings
Among Insects and Flowers (1897); three novels: The
Better Patch or Sylph, the Organ Grinder's Daughter (1898), A Strange Disclosure (1898), and A
Strange Recluse (1899). A self-taught artist, Lydia also illustrated and
wrote the verse for an edition of Little Red Riding
Hood, and three other children's books. She died in 1901.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materals about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882
Very, Frank W. (Frank Washington), 1852-1927
Very, Jones, 1813-1880
Very, Lydia L. A. (Lydia Louisa Anna), 1823-1901
Illustration of books
Ship Rock (Peabody)
Transcendentalism (New England)
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Very Family Papers, MSS 83, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.
This collection constitutes a reorganization and integration of miscellaneous
manuscripts, all of which are from an unknown source. One letter from Lydia Louise
A. Very to Mrs. Nathan Dane Appleton (Box 1, Folder 21) was donated by Janet
Appleton in 1991 (acc #90981).
Collection processed by Caroline Preston, [1980s]. Updated by Catherine Robertson,
Additional collections of Jones Very manuscripts are located at the Andover
Theological Seminary, Harvard Archives, and Houghton Library.
The Very Family Papers contain the papers of Jones Very (1813-1880), a transcendentalist poet, and his sister, Lydia Very (1823-1901), an author and illustrator.
Harvard University; Diaries; Poetry; Religious poetry; Salem (Mass.); Very, Frank W. (Frank Washington), 1852-1927; Very, James; Very, Jonathan; Very, Jones, 1813-1880; Very, Lydia L. A. (Lydia Louisa Anna), 1823-1901; Very, Washington; Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882; Epic poetry; Essays; Illustration of books; Ship Rock (Peabody); Transcendentalism (New England); Women authors
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.
This collection constitutes a reorganization and integration of miscellaneous manuscripts, all of which are from an unknown source. One letter from Lydia Louise A. Very to Mrs. Nathan Dane Appleton (Box 1, Folder 21) was donated by Janet Appleton in 1991 (acc #90981).