For me, it's Edgar Allan Poe.
I have a few things in common with the Father of the Detective Story. We both have called Richmond, Virginia and New York City home. We both share an affinity for ravens. And we both studied at my alma mater, the University of Virginia.
If you aren't familiar with Poe's UVA college days, here are a few factoids you may enjoy:
- Seventeen-year-old Poe enrolled at UVA on February 14, 1826--yes, Valentine's Day--and remained through the full academic year, which ended in December.
- Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, former US president, and founder of UVA passed away five months after Poe moved to Charlottesville. Though not confirmed, it is likely Poe met Jefferson at school functions and attended the memorial services held to honor the University's founder, including by wearing a black arm band.
- Poe had an impressive athletic record while at UVA. He was a record-breaking swimmer, having swum six miles against the current on the James River. His running broad jump distance was 21' 6" with a running start of twenty yards.
- Of the eight academic schools possible to enroll in at the time, Poe registered for two (modern and ancient languages). Of note, most students in those days enrolled in three schools, but Poe couldn't afford the extra fifty-dollar fee.
- He was secretary of the University's Jefferson Debate Society.
- Poe lived in a section of UVA's original academical village called The Range. His single dorm room, coincidentally and ominously No. 13, is now referred to as The Raven Room.
- Mary Stuart Smith described Poe's dorm room (May 17, 1899) ~ There was one window, and opposite it, a door, both furnished with green blinds. There were two closets, one on each side of the open fireplace, with a book shelf, a single bedstead, a table, a wash stand, and a small travelling trunk. The walls were whitewashed, and adorned with quantities of spirited sketches in charcoal, drawn by the skilled fingers of the two-fold artist who was its occupant.
- While living in 13 West Range, Poe etched a verse on the glass pane of his window:
- His nickname was Gaffy, the hero of a short story he wrote and read allowed to several classmates who had gathered in his room one night. According to legend, Poe flung the pages into the fire, destroying the only copy, after a friend noted it had repeated too often.
- Poe wrote Tamerlane while at UVA. Later the University influenced two of his short stories, "William Wilson" and "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains."
- Poe had a strained relationship with his uncle, John Allan, who was his guardian at the time and limited Poe's funding. By the end of the 1826 academic year in December, Poe had resorted to burning his furniture to keep warm. When he left for winter break, Poe had every intention of returning to UVA the following February, but . . .
- Allan refused to continue financially supporting Poe at school, so he never returned to the University. Thus, he never graduated from college.
- Poe left behind many personal debts, which Allan refused to settle. Worth noting, a century later, the University's librarian, Harry Clemmons, paid Poe's outstanding library fines.
- UVA commissioned the sculptor George Julian Zolnay to create a bronze bust of Poe to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death. The bust was displayed in Alderman Library before the renovations commenced this autumn.
- If you ever visit Charlottesville, Virginia, stop by No. 13 West Range. UVA restored and furnished Poe's old dorm room to its period-appropriate spartan glory, though I suspect the raven statuette was added later.