Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe marker Q-29, Charlottesville, VA (Click any photo to enlarge)Marker No. Q-29
Albemarle County, VA

Marker Text:  Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) – writer, poet, and critic – was born in Boston, Mass. Orphaned at a young age, Poe was raised by John and Frances Allan of Richmond. He attended schools in England and Richmond before enrolling at the University of Virginia on 14 Feb. 1826 for one term, living in No. 13 West Range. He took classes in the Ancient and Modern Languages. While at the university, Poe accumulated debts that John Allan refused to pay. Poe left the university and briefly returned to Richmond, before moving to Boston in Mar. 1827. Some of his best-known writings include the Raven, Annabel Lee, and the Tell-Tale Heart. He also edited the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond from 1835 to 1837. Poe died in Baltimore, Md.

Location: On McCormick Road, next to Poe Alley on the campus of the University of Virginia. Erected by the Department of Historic Resources in 2003.

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” - Edgar Allan Poe

  When I stop to look and photograph an historical markers, I am always surprised by the things I learn I never knew. While in Charlottesville for a doctor's appointment I drove through the University of Virginia campus and found this marker about Edgar Allan Poe. I had not realized he had lived in Virginia and went to school here for a short time.

Edgar Allan Poe marker Q-29, on campus of University of Virginia.

Poe’s room is in the building to the right of the marker.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  The marker is located in front of the place where Poe resided. Poe's room was Number Thirteen, West Range, and is now used as a memorial to him. I did not realize this at the time or I would have taken a photo of the room as well, but links to photos of the room are below.

  Poe entered as a student on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 1826 while the second session at the University was already under way. The university had only began to accept students for classes in 1825 though the university was formally founded in 1819. Thomas Jefferson, the university's founder and whose home Monticello overlooked the university was still alive when Poe arrived. Poe mentions in one of his letters to John Allan from the university that the Rotunda was yet unfinished, and that books had just been removed to the library. According to some accounts I had read, Poe did get to meet Jefferson and on one occasion had lunch with Jefferson and other students.

  Jefferson wanted students to plan their own course of study. In keeping with Jefferson's intent, Poe spent many hours, studying the poets and while as student, he began "Tamerlane." This first appeared in print in the form of a tiny volume entitled "Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian." It was printed during the summer of 1827, after he had been driven from the Allan home in Richmond, and was in Boston facing starvation. Calvin F. S. Thomas, a young and obscure Boston printer agreed to publish Poe's poems. This was Poe's first publishing venture at the age of eighteen. Poe early in his writing career viewed himself as a poet. “Tamerlane” remained virtually unheard of until after Poe's death. Today, only five copies are known to exist and are valued at thousands of dollars. All the copies are in the possession of private collectors, with the exception of one, which is in the British Museum.

Edgar Allan Poe marker Q-29, McCormick Road, University of Virginia. (Click any photo to enlarge)  The son of actors, Poe never really knew his parents. His father left the family early on and his mother died when he was only three. Separated from his siblings, Poe went to live with his godfather, John and Frances Allan, a successful tobacco merchant and his wife, in Richmond, Virginia. Poe and Frances seemed to form a bond, but he never quite meshed with John. Preferring poetry over profits, Poe reportedly wrote poems on the back of some of Allan's business papers.

  Money was also an issue between Poe and John Allan. When Poe went to the University of Virginia in 1826, some sources state, he didn't receive enough funds from Allan to cover all his costs. Poe turned to gambling to cover the difference, but ended up in debt. Some reports state his reason for leaving the university was that John Allan would not cover his gambling debts, while others state John Allan never provided significant funds to attend the university.

  Poe returned to Richmond only to face another personal setback — his neighbor and fiancée Elmira Royster had become engaged to someone else. The heartbroken Poe’s last few months in the Allan mansion were punctuated with increasing hostility towards Allan until Poe finally stormed out of the home in a quest to become a great poet and to find adventure. Two years later he heard that Frances Allan, the only mother he had ever known, was dying of tuberculosis and she wanted to see him before she died. By the time Poe returned to Richmond she had already been buried. Poe and Allan briefly reconciled and Allan helped Poe gain an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Poe only stayed at the Academy for one year, though he excelled in his studies, the duties and discipline of the academy was more than he could adjust in accompanying.

  I had written previously some information about Edgar Allan Poe when I posted the Logan, WV marker about Thomas Dunn English, a published author and songwriter, who had a bitter ongoing feud with Edgar Allan Poe. For additional information and photos of Poe student room follow the link to The Raven Society, in the text there is a link to photos.

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