Edgar Allan Poe, Complete Poetical Works

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Poe's short university career was in many respects a repetition of his course at the Richmond Academy. He became noted at Charlottesville both for his athletic feats and his scholastic successes. He entered as a student on February 1,1826, and remained till the close of the second session in December of that year.

"He entered the schools of ancient and modern languages, attending the lectures on Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian. I was a member of the last three classes," says Mr. William Wertenbaker, the recently deceased librarian, "and can testify that he was tolerably regular in his attendance, and a successful student, having obtained distinction at the final examination in Latin and French, and this was at that time the highest honor a student could obtain. The present regulations in regard to degrees had not then been adopted. Under existing regulations, he would have graduated in the two languages above-named, and have been entitled to diplomas."

These statements of Poe's classmate are confirmed by Dr. Harrison, chairman of the Faculty, who remarks that the poet was a great favorite with his fellow-students, and was noted for the remarkable rapidity with which he prepared his recitations and for their accuracy, his translations from the modern languages being especially noteworthy.

Several of Poe's classmates at Charlottesville have testified to his "noble qualities" and other good endowments, but they remember that his "disposition was rather retiring, and that he had few intimate associates." Mr. Thomas Boiling, one of his fellow-students who has favored us with reminiscences of him, says:

"I was 'acquainted', with him, but that is about all. My impression was, and is, that no one could say that he 'knew' him. He wore a melancholy face always, and even his smile--for I do not ever remember to have seen him laugh--seemed to be forced. When he engaged sometimes with others in athletic exercises, in which, so far as high or long jumping, I believe he excelled all the rest, Poe, with the same ever sad face, appeared to participate in what was amusement to the others more as a task than sport."

Poe had no little talent for drawing, and Mr. John Willis states that the walls of his college rooms were covered with his crayon sketches, whilst Mr. Boiling mentions, in connection with the poet's artistic facility, some interesting incidents. The two young men had purchased copies of a handsomely-illustrated edition of Byron's poems, and upon visiting Poe a few days after this purchase, Mr. Bolling found him engaged in copying one of the engravings with crayon upon his dormitory ceiling. He continued to amuse himself in this way from time to time until he had filled all the space in his room with life-size figures which, it is remembered by those who saw them, were highly ornamental and well executed.

As Mr. Bolling talked with his associate, Poe would continue to scribble away with his pencil, as if writing, and when his visitor jestingly remonstrated with him on his want of politeness, he replied that he had been all attention, and proved that he had by suitable comment, assigning as a reason for his apparent want of courtesy that he was trying 'to divide his mind,' to carry on a conversation and write sensibly upon a totally different subject at the same time.

Mr. Wertenbaker, in his interesting reminiscences of the poet, says:

"As librarian I had frequent official intercourse with Poe, but it was at or near the close of the session before I met him in the social circle. After spending an evening together at a private house he invited me, on our return, into his room. It was a cold night in December, and his fire having gone pretty nearly out, by the aid of some tallow candles, and the fragments of a small table which he broke up for the purpose, he soon rekindled it, and by its comfortable blaze I spent a very pleasant hour with him. On this occasion he spoke with regret of the large amount of money he had wasted, and of the debts he had contracted during the session. If my memory be not at fault, he estimated his indebtedness at $2,000 and, though they were gaming debts, he was earnest and emphatic in the declaration that he was bound by honor to pay them at the earliest opportunity."

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