by Clark Davis
University of Chicago Press, 2023
Cloth: 978-0-226-82868-8 | eISBN: 978-0-226-82869-5
Library of Congress Classification PS3128.D38 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.3

A biography of a long-forgotten but vital American Transcendentalist poet.
In September of 1838, a few months after Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his controversial Divinity School address, a twenty-five-year-old tutor and divinity student at Harvard named Jones Very stood before his beginning Greek class and proclaimed himself “the second coming.” Over the next twenty months, despite a brief confinement in a mental hospital, he would write more than three hundred sonnets, many of them in the voice of a prophet such as John the Baptist or even of Christ himself—all, he was quick to claim, dictated to him by the Holy Spirit.
Befriended by the major figures of the Transcendentalist movement, Very strove to convert, among others, Elizabeth and Sophia Peabody, Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and most significantly, Emerson himself. Though shocking to some, his message was simple: by renouncing the individual will, anyone can become a “son of God” and thereby usher in a millennialist heaven on earth. Clark Davis’s masterful biography shows how Very came to embody both the full radicalism of Emersonian ideals and the trap of isolation and emptiness that lay in wait for those who sought complete transcendence.
God’s Scrivener tells the story of Very’s life, work, and influence in depth, recovering the startling story of a forgotten American prophet, a “brave saint” whose life and work are central to the development of poetry and spirituality in America.

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