Though Jones Very was a minor figure in Transcendentalist circles, his poetry and criticism were highly regarded by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and the pioneering educator Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. His close study of Shakespeare led him to write almost exclusively in Shakespearian sonnets, and his sequences on religion and nature gained recognition for their graceful lyricism. However, Very’s intense religious devotion soon led him to believe that he was Christ incarnate, or the messiah—and that his poetry was the product of divine inspiration. He was dismissed from his studies at Harvard Divinity School over this declaration, and he was eventually admitted to an insane asylum. Years later, Very no longer felt he served as God’s vessel; he retired to his family’s home in Salem, Massachusetts, where he lived with his two sisters until his death in 1880.
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