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Waitman Barbe


Writer, newspaperman, and educator Waitman Barbe (November 19, 1864-October 30, 1925) was born in Monongalia County. He was educated at West Virginia University, as well as Harvard, Oxford, and Denison universities. A well-known member of the WVU English department, Barbe also wrote poetry and literary criticism.

Barbe was managing editor of the Parkersburg Daily State Journal newspaper from 1889 to 1895, when he joined the WVU faculty. He was an accomplished poet. ‘‘The Song of the Centuries’’ (1888) is regarded as his first important poem, and the 1892 book Ashes and Incense secured his reputation. He later wrote books of poetic analysis, including The Study of Poetry (1905), Famous Poems Explained (1909), and Great Poems Interpreted (1913). During his years at the university, Barbe corresponded with many famous personalities, including Winston Churchill, Richard Harding Davis, Julia Ward Howe, William Dean Howells, Amy Lowell, and Owen Wister. Their responses to Barbe’s questions, collected in the Waitman Barbe papers at the West Virginia and Regional History Center at WVU, exemplify the depth and the breadth of Barbe’s curiosity.

Written by Cheryl B. Torsney