An 1842 small gift-book of verses written by Anna Maria Wells of Boston, Massachusetts, and published in multiple formats and configurations.
Pa was tired, but he had been out in town and bought me the pretty little book of verses called “The Floweret” for it was another birthday and I was five years old. – Pioneer Girl
Although the little book of verses Laura Ingalls Wilder said she received for her fifth birthday did not survive and it was not mentioned in any published Little House book, it is widely believed that it must have been The Floweret, written by Anna Maria Wells. First published in the 1840s — the image at left is of a December 1841 advertisement in the Salem (Massachusetts) Register — The Floweret was printed in many formats and different printings might contain different poems by Mrs. Wells. The title was sometimes followed by “A Gift of Love” or “A Little Token for the Holidays.” The author’s name might be listed as A.M. Wells, Mrs. Wells, or Anna Maria Wells, depending on the publisher. It was always a small volume, typically about four by five inches in size, containing fewer than one hundred pages.
Anna Maria Foster was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1797. After the death of her husband, Anna’s mother remarried and moved to Boston, where Anna was raised and educated, showing a talent for both poetry and music at a young age. In 1829, Anna Foster married Thomas Wells, he also a poet, but a better poet than a businessman, it turned out. Finding an audience in periodicals of the era, Anna’s first book was Poems and Juvenile Sketches, appearing in 1931, and she continued to write to support herself, her husband, and their four children. Anna Maria Wells died in Boston on December 18, 1868, the year after Laura Ingalls was born.
Mrs. Wells kept her verses simple and used common names in her poetry. One has to wonder if her poem, “Miss Nelly,” reminded young Laura Ingalls of someone she knew in Walnut Grove?
Little Miss Nelly, in muslin and lace,
Sits up in the parlor with simpering face,
With frock of gay silk, and her ribbons of green,
And the prettiest slippers that ever were seen.
She fans herself gently, and sits on a chair,
And holds herself up with a womanly air.
In my calico frock, and my stout leather shoe,
I love to run out in the fields– do not you?
The Floweret (PG)