The epic novel of the American West and the heroic cowboy
Owen Wister's powerful story of the tall, silent stranger who rides into the uncivilized West and defeats the forces of evil has become an enduring part of American mythology. Set in Wyoming Territory, The Virginian depicts the loneliness and challenge of an unknown land where the whistle of a freight train sounds across great miles of silence, where easy camaraderie—and sudden violence—are found around the campfire, and where the rough honesty of "frontier justice" is just beginning to impose a sense of society on an unruly populace. For Wister, the West represented a territory of adventure that tested the worth of a man. His hero, as John Seelye writes in his Introduction, has his roots in the historical romances of Sir Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper; he is a man who lives by the classic code of chivalry, ruled by quiet courage and deeply felt honor.
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About the Author
Owen Wister (1860-1938) was born in Philadelphia and raised in Germantown, Pennsylvania. At age 25, he spent a summer in Wyoming on the advice of his physician. Encouraged by his friend from Harvard, Theodore Roosevelt, he later wrote about his experiences and observations of the American West. His greatest success came in 1902 with the publication of The Virginian, which was a bestseller for months and would be dramatized and filmed numerous times.
John Seelye is a graduate research professor of American literature at the University of Florida. He is the author of The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain at the Movies, Prophetic Writers: The River in Early American Literature, Beautiful Machine: Rivers and the Early Republic, Memory's Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock, and War Games: Richard Harding Davis and the New Imperialism. He is also the consulting editor for Penguin Classics in American literature.