A Few Facts About the University Campus: Einar Ben and the University of Iceland

Did you know that…

… Benedikt Sveinsson, father of Einar Benediktsson, poet, was the first to propose a bill in Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, to found the University of Iceland, in 1881. The school was to have departments of law, theology and medicine and was intended to educate Icelandic officials. 

… Einar’s aunt, Þorbjörg Sveinsdóttir, and his cousin, Ólafía Jóhannsdóttir, held a collection to found the University in 1894. This money was then used to support the first female students at the University of Iceland. 

The Poet

The Poet

… Like Benedikt, Einar was a great champion of Icelandic independence. For example, he founded the first Icelandic newspaper, Dagskrá, in 1894. It supported Heimastjórnarflokkurinn. (e. The Party for Home Rule.) Einar was a prolific poet and author until 1932 and at the age of 68 he was acknowledged as a poet laureate of Iceland, when he settled completely in Herdísarvík on the Reykjanes peninsula along with his partner, Hlín Johnson. 

… Einar bequeathed all his belongings to the University of Iceland in 1935, five years before his death. This included his house, personal property, and his whole estate of Selvogur, Herdísarvík, around 4.200 hectares. 

… Among the inheritance was Einar’s personal library, which encompasses 1.225 volumes, most in Greek and Latin, on geography and history. Most of this collection is kept in locked storage at the University Library, as it includes some very rare volumes. 

… For a long time, students could relax on Einar’s living-room set at Skólabær, the University reception at Suðurgarður. The furniture later went wandering and wound up in the main building of the University, where students could hunker down. After a renovation, the living-room set went into storage, and now needs restoring. 

… The most handsome piece of the inheritance is still visible at the University campus, at VR-III. This is the poet’s desk, where he doubtless wrote most of his work. The desk is massive and in every regard very elegant. Unfortunately, it is hidden away in a meeting room but the goal is to find it a better place, visible to all. 

Einar's Desk in VR-III

Einar's Desk in VR-III

… The student association Grimmhildur, the association of H-students at the Department of Humanities, unveiled a memorial to the last inhabitants of Herdísarvík, the poet and Hlín, in Selvogur in 2013. 

Text: Kristinn Pálsson

Translation from Icelandic: Áróra Einarsdóttir