Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1839. 8vo (17 x 11 cm). vii, 175 pages. Publisher's green cloth, printed paper spine label, the Essays almost entirely unopened (BAL binding A). Spine label lightly soiled, a few spots and small areas of wear on cover, one front flyleaf removed, a few intermittent foxmarks, generally a fresh and crisp copy in the original cloth. Item #406603
FIRST EDITION of Very's first full book (after single-leaf poems and an offprint from Christian Examiner), edited anonymously by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Myerson F2). Very, born out of wedlock to two cousins in Salem, studied at Harvard as an undergraduate and then at the Divinity School. His lecture on epic poetry in Salem brought Very to the attention of Emerson and he was embraced by the Transcendentalists. Soon after his lecture, Very asserted that he was the Second Coming of Christ. Harvard dismissed him and he was institutionalized in an insane asylum. Emerson remained a loyal admirer and arranged for the publication of this book after his release. The three essays that open the volume are "Epic Poetry," "Shakespeare" and "Hamlet" established him as a well-regarded scholar of Greek literature and Shakespeare, and the majority of his poems are Shakespearean sonnets. Very remained a recluse for most of his life, and issued very little poetry, almost all of which was distributed in manuscript and unpublished. His work, though, was included in the January 1843 first issue of 'The Pioneer,' which included the first publication of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." BAL 20763.