The pursuit of higher education at Western universities has long been an enduring aspiration for many individuals in India, including myself. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, the associated high costs often made this dream financially prohibitive for most middle-class families. This deep-seated aspiration became a distinct expression during my travels abroad, with visits to universities becoming a regular part of my itinerary.
The enigma begins
In Virginia, I took a day from my schedule to pay homage to the University of Virginia, one of the city's historic landmarks. The visit not only promised a journey through the halls of academia but also offered a chance to delve into the connection between this prestigious institution and the enigmatic literary figure, Edgar Allan Poe.
Entering the realm of Poe
Brantley Ussery, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Charlottesville, welcomed me near the university chapel and provided a comprehensive overview of the university's rich history. As we toured the campus, beginning at the majestic Rotunda and winding through charming pavilions along the iconic Lawn, the connection between Poe and the University unfolded.
It wasn't until Pavilion VII that the Poe connection truly materialized. This pavilion, once home to the university's first professor of ancient languages, George Blaettermann, had a unique claim to fame – Poe had briefly resided here during his time at the University of Virginia.
Poe's desk and artefacts
The Alderman Library housed the Poe Room, a space that welcomed visitors with an aura of reverence. Adorned with portraits and memorabilia, the room transported me to the early 19th century when Poe walked these grounds as a student.
Poe, born in Boston in 1809, moved to Richmond at the age of three. Orphaned soon after, he found a guardian in John Allan, a prominent Virginia merchant. Poe enrolled at the University on February 14, 1826, demonstrating early signs of his brooding, lonely genius. The Poe Room, with his writing desk at its heart, bore witness to the birth of Poe's literary genius.
The legacy lives on
The room showcased not only tangible relics but also the enduring legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. His presence seemed to linger in the air, his words whispering from the pages of original works and letters. It stood as a testament to the University of Virginia's commitment to preserving the memory of this literary giant.
"All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream"
The University of Virginia's unique association with Poe made this journey intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant. It served as a reminder that even in academia, the tales of literary giants like Poe continue to captivate and inspire.
As I left those magnificent buildings and tree-lined lawns, Poe's haunting line, "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream," resonated in my mind. It encapsulated the sense of wonder and contemplation that such a visit can evoke, highlighting the enduring power of literature.
UV: An essential destination
If you find yourself near Washington DC, don't miss the chance to visit the University of Virginia and Edgar Allan Poe's room. It's just a short drive from Dulles Airport. Charlottesville's tourism authorities are ready to assist, or you can contact www.virginia.edu/visit to arrange your tour of this historic institution and its fascinating literary connections.