Edgar Allan Poe and his student days

Fall scene

Fall image courtesy of photob, Morguefile.

Fall in its spectacular glory has come to the DC Metro area. It always makes me think of students going back to school, shuffling through sidewalks strewn with brilliantly colored fall leaves in shades of orange, red and yellow.

Fall also makes me think of a literary magazine workshop I once attended at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. UVA has some spectacular fall foliage around its campus as well as some stunning buildings, thanks to the influence of founder Thomas Jefferson. Plus, UVA’s had well-known people as its students, such as journalist Katie Couric, painter Georgia O’Keeffe and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

One of UVA’s more well-known students is Edgar Allan Poe, who briefly attended UVA during 1826. His room is still preserved and protected by a glass door so that you can see inside the room.

Poe's room at UVA

Poe’s West Range room at UVA, circa 1915. Image courtesy of Rufus W. Holsinger, Wikimedia Commons.

UVA at the time was still young and going through some growing pains. According to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website, Poe studied different languages such as Greek, Latin, Italian, French, German and Spanish, went to classes and was friendly with other students. At other times, he would gamble at card games, visit the library, write home and visit with other students. Poe was also good at drawing.

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be a student alongside Edgar Allan Poe. Did he fit in with the other students? Or was Poe more the kind of person who only had a few close friends? What did he think as he walked from building to building on UVA’s campus? Did the people he met at UVA influence his gothic writing style later in life?

Most importantly, did anybody suspect that Poe would become so famous later on in his life? Some of his friends speculated that Poe would be a painter or a poet, but he became so much more than that. Poe was the father of detective fiction and one of the earliest writers to use the short story genre. But it’s for his macabre stories that Poe is best known. “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” are still memorable to me for their creepy quality.

And others still like these stories, too. Years ago, I walked through the building that housed the English Department at my own college. During some structural renovations, workmen removed part of a wall in the front hallway, leaving exposed cinderblock. Some comic put up a speech balloon saying “For the love of God, Montresor!” next to the cinderblock to imitate the hapless Fortunato.

I guess I’m not the only “Cask of Amontillado” fan out there. Maybe we should form a society? UVA’s big on societies, especially the secret kind. I think they’d approve.


Filed under Writing

18 responses to “Edgar Allan Poe and his student days

  1. I think Poe might have scared me…..

  2. There’s always room for a “Cask of Amontillado,” especially at this time of year! Interesting post, and I agree with you regarding the abundance of secret societies at UVA through the years. My fraternity, Kappa Sigma, began there long ago. I visited there once in summer and was impressed with the beauty of the place. Would love to see it in the autumn.

  3. Perfect timing. We are finishing up our short story unit and “Cask of Amontillado” was one of them. Poe always freaks out my freshmen. He had a tender, jovial side as well. He even enjoyed leapfrog as an adult.

  4. Yes, I wonder if he was odd back then? All I know is that he was a genius. His poem, Annabelle Lee, is my all-time favorite poem. It is simply lyrical.

  5. Love the picture! I picture the same thing when I think of Fall, except that in my imagination it’s me that makes up the student population shuffling through those bright leaves. I want to go to DC! Hopefully someday soon, and preferably for graduate school. I’ve been wishing for so long that I’m not sure if it’ll happen at all anymore, but I haven’t lost hope! 🙂

    Cask of Amontillado is one I’ve never heard of strangely enough, but I’m quite a fan of The Tell-Tale Heart and some of his poems. I’ll have to check that one out for sure.

    Enjoy the fall colors, and please post more pictures so us Fall-less state (Texas!) residents can enjoy with you. 🙂

  6. When I was a child, my dad, a UVA grad, took me to see Poe’s room on the lawn. I have kept that picture in my head and always envisioned the raven there. Poe’s spooky moods, interesting images and somber tones do feel strangely appropriate in the deepening autumn as it fades toward winter.

  7. I agree with the first commenter that Mr. Poe would have scared me. Maybe, just maybe, at this stage of my life, I could have withstood that fear. It’s taken a lifetime.

  8. Excellent post. I’ve always loved Poe’s work and think he would have been interesting to meet. I imagine he may have been a little intense with a very dry sense of humour.

  9. I remember reading Poe’s works in the abridged “Little Whale Books” format as a kid, They really scared me, but I couldn’t get enough. As an adult I have read many of the complete works. Great stories and they still scare me. What are your thoughts on the new movie “The Raven?”

    If I may ask, and I am sure you get this frequently so I apologize, what advice can you give to aspiring writers on getting published? Finding literary agents? Etc.

    • I haven’t seen “The Raven” yet but I’d really like to. I want to see what John Cusack does with Edgar Allan Poe.

      As for advice for aspiring writers on getting published, I don’t quite have the experience that you seek. My recommendation would be to do your research. Check out the publishing company and the types of work they publish, and ask others who have connections to the publishing field for their recommendations for a reputable literary agent.

      One blogger I read recently was saying that it’s necessary to craft a good proposal as well, since software is doing a lot of the sorting through proposals these days. I hope this helps.


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