James Albert Harrison
    by Meghan Ellwood

James Albert Harrison was born in Pass Christian, Mississippi on August 24, 1848, raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and died in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 31, 1911.  He was the son of Jilson Payne Harrison and Sidney Ann Powell Norton. While no connection could be found to University Professor Gessner Harrison, James Harrison was a descendant of one of the Virginia branches of the Harrison family. James A. Harrison first came to the University of Virginia for the forty-third session in 1866. During his time at the University, he studied Modern Languages, German, Latin, Chemistry, and Moral Philosophy. Harrison would eventually return to the University in 1895 as professor of Romantic Languages and Literature. He was paid a salary of $3,300.00 and lived in Pavilion II.  Before coming to the University, Harrison studied in Germany at the University of Bonn and taught Modern Languages at Randolph-Macon College and Washington and Lee University.


An accomplished scholar and author, Harrison received honorary degrees from Randolph-Macon College, Washington and Lee University, Tulane University, and Columbia University.  His scholarly works include editions of Beowulf, the Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, and the Anglo-Saxon Prose Reader for Beginners, plus a biography of fellow University of Virginia alumnus, Edgar Allan Poe.  Harrison wrote a particularly beautiful essay on the history of the cemetery at the University of Virginia during his time as a professor. The essay poetically describes the landscape around, within, and surrounding the cemetery, as well as providing two letters from “authentic lips” that describe the creation of the cemetery. From this essay, it is easy to see both Harrison’s skill for writing and deep appreciation for the history and beauty of the University.








Lloyd, James. Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817-1967 Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1981pp. 220-221.Tyler, Lyon. Men of Mark in Virginia: Ideals of American Life. Washington, D.C.: Men of Mark Publishing Company, volume no. 3, 1907, pp. 158-161.http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/BOV/1890/bov_18...http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/BOV/1890/bov_18...http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/343?doc=/juel_display/periodicals/Alu...