Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an American writer and poet, and one of the earliest students at the University of Virginia.

Many have speculated as to whether Edgar Allan Poe ever met Thomas Jefferson. Poe matriculated at the University in February of 1826, five months before Jefferson's death. Jefferson was in the habit of inviting University students to Monticello, and there is evidence that he was still doing so in the spring of 1826. Mary Jefferson Randolph wrote to her sister Ellen about their grandfather on April 16, 1826:

"to our great annoyance he has resumed the practice to of inviting students to dinner on sunday and we are to have to day a company of school boy guests who for any pleasure or profit we expect from their society are not worth the additional trouble their presence gives but grandpapa wills wishes it, [. . .] last sunday in place of the students we had a part of the faculty."[1]

According to one account, however, Poe did attend Jefferson's funeral. Andrew K. Smith, writing to the Washington Republican many years later on the occasion of Thomas Jefferson Randolph's death, recalled: "Among the students present at the funeral, I recollect seeing Edgar A. Poe, a high-minded and honorable young man, though easily persuaded to his wrong..."[2] No other accounts have been found that confirm Smith's claim.

It is perhaps not unlikely that Jefferson did meet Poe. At the time, however, Poe had not yet achieved any particular fame, and so those present at such a meeting would not necessarily have seen any reason to note his name. No convincing evidence has yet surfaced to indicate that Poe did meet Jefferson. It is not unlikely, either, that Poe would have attended Jefferson's funeral; Smith's account is not as reliable as it could be, however, as he is recalling events almost fifty years later.

Footnotes

  1. Ellen Wayles Coolidge Correspondence, University of Virginia Special Collections. Transcription from Family Letters Project, available here.
  2. "Jefferson," Charlottesville Weekly Chronicle, October 15, 1875. Text available online in the Family Letters Project.

Further Sources

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