University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

The Dunglisons Reach the University of Virginia

University of Virginia, 1827

The University of Virginia, 1827, Engraving by B. Tanner

Robley Dunglison‘s group finally arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, on 10 February 1825. On their way to Charlottesville, the new faculty and their wives stopped in Richmond, where a ball was held in their honor. Maria Randolph was amazed at the number of people in attendance: “The grave seemed to have given up the dead, for there came ladies whom I have never heard of being out before for years to see the English people.” Miss Randolph considered the Dunglisons a handsome couple and added that Harriette was “genteel, sensible, and quite pretty” (Bruce, 12-13). The Dunglisons’ travel adventures continued on the road to Charlottesville. Just a few miles from the University of Virginia, their stagecoach got stuck and nearly overturned near Moore’s Creek. They managed to free themselves from the wreckage, then finished their nightmarish journey on foot. Dunglison, who apparently possessed a spirited sense of humor, recalled:

The accident occurred at a short distance from Moore’s Creek, over which there was no bridge, and we were, consequently, compelled to ford it, bearing the ladies over; and such was our unpropitious introduction to the neighborhood of the University. A Roman would have regarded it as a bad omen, and been disheartened. We were not Romans, however, and the affair only excited amusement (Radbill, 22).

Photo of Pavilion X, East Lawn

Pavilion X on the East Lawn, Dunglison and his wife, Harriette, were the first to live here.

Classes began at the University of Virginia on 7 March 1825. Dunglison joined a faculty of seven, three of whom were fellow Englishmen (Thomas H. Key, Charles Bonnycastle, and George Long), one German (George Blaettermann), and two Americans (George Tucker and John P. Emmet). Dunglison noted that even the Americans were born outside the United States: Tucker in Bermuda, and Emmet in Ireland. He worried that such a large percentage of foreign professors “would be unfavourable to discipline; and might lead the disorderly to rebel against the authorities of the University.” He was pleased to confess nine years later that he was wrong: “No single act came to my knowledge of insubordination from that cause; whilst ample evidence was afforded of their great respect for those who had left their homes, and were zealously engaged in instructing them” (Radbill, 24).