Sea-Gift, an 1873 novel based on Edwin Fuller’s recollections of his childhood, time as a student in Chapel Hill, and service in the Civil War, became enormously influential after its publication. It became known as the “Freshman’s Bible” at UNC, shaping incoming students’ conception of college life for decades thereafter. It is likely to have inspired the founding of the Order of the Gimghoul, and may also have influenced Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. In this selection, Fuller describes a party thrown by one of his classmates, which featured a sumptuous meal ordered from Virginia, “the Seniors discussing Mill and Say, Vattel and Montesquieu, as if the fate of the nation depended on their opinion,” and, of course, plenty of alcohol. Fuller’s experience here may be familiar to a UNC student: “I had determined, on my way thither, not to touch wine unless courtesy compelled it, but now, as I caught the contagion of hilarity, and found that what I said was applauded and listened to— dangerous flattery—a reckless spirit of conviviality seized me, and I threw restraint to the winds, resolving to have a ‘good time’ for once.” Fuller goes on to describe a drinking game he and his companions play, a drunken scheme to “put a cow in the belfry,” and his difficulty getting back to his room after this feat is completed. Like a nineteenth-century Animal House, this account surely served as an inspiration to generations of college students thereafter, and its influence is palpable today on Franklin Street any night of the week.
Source: E.T. Malone Jr.; “Edwin W. Fuller (Edwin Wiley), 1847-1876”; from Dictionary of North Carolina Biography ed. William S. Powell (University of North Carolina Press, 1979). <https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/fuller/bio.html>