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The Virginian

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  4,777 ratings  ·  502 reviews
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 Terriotry, The Virginiandepics the loneliness and challenge of an unknown land where the whistle of a freight train sounds acro
Paperback, 512 pages
Published August 1st 1988 by Penguin Classics (first published 1902)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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J.G. Keely
I cannot believe that I sat in American Lit reading Hawthorne when I could have been reading this. If you have never heard of this book, then I am not sure why; just as I am not sure why I had never heard of it. It is surely Romantic, and sometimes Heroic, but there is a depth of emotion, wit, and thought in this work which made me question how American it could be.

Of course, the author spent some schooling-time in Europe, and holds a dear enough place for Austen and Shakespeare not to descend i
Jul 11, 2011 Hannah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hannah by: Misfit
The western genre isn't one that I'm very familiar with, having read (in my impressionable early teens) some of my uncle's Tabor Evans Longarm series paperbacks. And let me just say for the record that the only thing the main character Longarm wasn't riding was a horse....Consequently, my only reading forays into western literature haven't been along the lines of Zane Gray's Riders of the Purple Sage so much as Evans' "Rider of the Purple-Nippled Wench" (my title, not his). As a result, I've ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I have been meaning to get to this book for years, literally. It's one of the novels I'm sure my dad read and he wasn't really a reader, at least not when I knew him.

I'm sure that some of you will like this book far better than I do. I think that it's an exceptionally well written novel. The prose is at times almost musical, "in it's way". There are two things that caused me to have a struggle with my interest now and then.

First this novel is predominantly a romance. It is indeed a western with
The Virginian, Oh What a Man! Wow, this was so good; I could not put it down. The Virginian is the most incredible, honest, honorable, handsome (sigh) hero to come along the pike in a long long time. And what a scamp, LOL at his plot to switch the babies (clothes and all) around, so that the parents took home the wrong kids, had to come back to the Judge's ranch, leaving Molly the new teacher alone for him to call on!

Lots of love, laughter and excitement as the Virginian falls for the new teach
This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read and is definitely among my favourites. I breathed the mountain air and felt the sear of the hot dusty plains in Wister's telling. I laughed out loud at several of the unexpected points of dry humour and I loved the slow unravelling of the many layers of the characters' personalities. Unlike most of the crass, mindless trash that is increasingly passed off as literature, this is a book about quality, character, decency, goodness a ...more
Elizabeth K.
This surprised me with how awesome it was, and the whole reason I picked it up in the first place is because Nancy had to explain to me a weird Owen Wister reference in The Art of Fielding.

The first piece of news is that this does not take place in Virginia. (I NEVER SAW THE MOVIES!) It takes place in Wyoming. Considered by some to be the first Western (or so the internet tells me), this is a series of related stories about the Virginian of the title, who is apparently so impressively manly that
THE VIRGINIAN. (1902). Owen Wister. ****.
This was another book on my pile of “guilt” novels – one of those classics that I kept meaning to read but never got around to doing so. I finally did. It was well worth it in a sad0-masochistic way. What you have here is the grand-daddy of all cowboy novels. It was the inspiration for all succeeding novels, plays, movies and TV shows that came after that featured cowboys of the Old West. It was immensely popular at the time, going through fifteen printi
I only saw ebook editions of this, although I have an old hardback at home & downloaded the audio book from the library. I read this as a teen, maybe 40 years ago & liked it a lot better. I have a feeling I skimmed through a lot of the first part. Listening to it just got to be a drag.

It's told in a rather odd way by a guy that knows the Virginian, a third person limited, but then it slips into third person omniscient in other places. That didn't harm the story at all, though. It was als
To think that the western movies, TV shows, space westerns, etc. were merely the shadows of this book, published in 1902. The impetus to read this book came from listening to Teddy Roosevelt's biography. The west made a big impression on TR and this book and Owen Wister were largely responsible for his, and our, romantic images. Lots has been written on this. Gun fights. High Noon. Dramatic and memorable music. Moral dilemmas did not exist within the code of the west. Good was clear, simple and ...more
Jan 21, 2008 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the late nineteenth century American frontier
The Virginian was the inspiration for The Shopkeeper. The inspiration didn't come from the main character of the novel, but from the life of Owen Wister, the author of this classic. Originally published in 1902, Wister visited the Old West in the late nineteenth century and wrote from personal experience.

Although the Virginian can be a somewhat difficult read today, I liked it because Wister wrote from the personal experiences he recorded in his journal. I've never seen the journal, but I've re
Kimberly Barlow Cook
A friend told me, before I read this book, that it was one of the most romantic books she had ever read. What did she mean by romantic, I wondered? Was it the Regency swash-buckling, bodice-ripping type, or something more meaningful? My friend was correct. This was, perhaps, the ultimate romantic novel. It skillfully weaves a story of the Adam and Eve type, where man yearns for what he lacks and finds it in the woman who completes him.

Having been married for 25 years myself, I have learned and
Bill Rogers
A funny thing happened while I was reading The Virginian. The book was nothing but cliches, and yet it seemed fresh and alive. This surprised me. How was that possible?

Then it hit me. Wister invented the cliches. This is where the cliches of the Western came from. Every dusty Western town and literary cattle drive since has borrowed something from this book.

Yet Wister's Old West isn't the Old West of later books. The narrator of the story is an Easterner who goes west on various trips over a per
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 10, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardcore Lovers of the Western of Scholars of the Same
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
This book, published in 1902, has been hailed as the first Western. The Virginian of the novel is the forefather of Hondo and Shane and every other strong but silent cowboy found in films. Here's a snippet:

The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man T
For anyone fascinated by how the myth of the Western hero came into being, this is the book to read. Published in 1902, it became hugely popular for decades and inspired movies (a version with Gary Cooper in 1929) and a long-running TV series (1962-1971). A modern reader could easily guess the storyline without reading a synopsis - the classic elements are all there: tall, dark, handsome cowboy hero; pretty schoolmarm from back East; the villain who must finally face justice at the end of a gun. ...more
Feb 19, 2009 Rodney rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rodney by: My Dad
This book may turn some off because its style of writing is over 100 years old. I enjoyed it thoroughly, however, and feel that it is an American classic. As many have stated, it is the consummate western, yet owes much to books that have come before it. It has a strong romantic strain reminiscent of an Austin novel, but can also be tough and gritty. The book is also quite philosophical and is a great source for quotes.

Someone who is looking for a L'Amour western should steer clear of "The Virgi
Jan 21, 2012 K. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Western lovers; believers in meritocracy, adventure lovers
A most excellent western.
Reread January 2012 in preparation for upcoming TJEd "Face to Face" seminar.

I am not sure where my critical capacities were the other times I’ve read this book. This time I pulled way more out of it than ever before. Sure, some of the metaphors are a little far-fetched, the way the author spells out the Virginian’s drawl gets old, but all in all, this is a wonderful book. The moralizing is mostly well embedded but when it’s not, it’s told in a reasonable and humorou
Josh Hopping
I picked up this book as a fan of western novels (mostly Louis L'amour). The writing was definitely within the style of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with the characters waxing on philosophically at times. One of the main issues that Wister is exploring is the role an individual plays in keeping justice and law in a land in which law enforcement officers are absent (i.e. is it lawful to hang a cattle thief without a trial or the present of a law officer). Wister also explored the difference i ...more
Jan 30, 2012 Bridget rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bridget by: Katie
Shelves: 2012
How have I never read this book before? It's a little bit The Count of Monte Cristo, a little bit A Pair of Blue Eyes, and a little bit Little House on the Prairie, with a dash of High Noon and (I'm going to say it) Twilight thrown in. It's not a perfect book - the pacing is uneven sometimes and while I liked the way the narrator elbowed himself into the story every few chapters, it wasn't always clear how he knew some things but not others. Is there such a thing as a semiscient narrator?

But it'
Beware of the Frog!

This is what, as I would recommend, should be put as a warning appendix to the title of Owen Wister's famous Western novel "The Virginian", which was first published in 1902 - because, as I felt, one third of the novel in some way or other centres on the preparation and consumption as well as the "harvest" of our amphibious friends.

"The Virginian" is commonly regarded as t h e literary forebear of the western, next to James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, and it pro
The Virginian certainly sets a high standard for Westerns. While portraying the rugged life of Wyoming in the late 1800's, Wister also deals with the timeless themes of justice, self-government, faith, morality, love. When is it right to take the life of another person? How should a man treat a woman? Can we condemn a person for weakness of character as much as a person of malicious intent? What is the mystery that can bring two people together in spite of vastly different backgrounds? What is g ...more
Apparently the first 'western'. It was really nice. I loved the story about the chicken taking care of everybody else's offspring, and sitting on and attempting to hatch rocks, mangos, pine cones, etc. The Virginian himself was great. The discussion about "taking the law into your own hands" - as a community, was really interesting. The Judge rightly points out that the people gave the power to courts/congress in the first place. If they people dead/crippled, who is to say the people cannot revo ...more
Karen S
Called the precursor to the modern Western novel, The Virginian embraces the rugged charm and appeal of the cowboy while realizing that it's a hard life. It made me yearn for the simple life. Simple doesn't equate to easy, but the integrity and self-reliance of the Virginian definitely struck a chord with me. I learned that some of the Western cliches got their start from this book. It was a bestseller in its day (first published in 1902) and is worth brushing off the dust and rediscovering!
This was a lovely read and I highly recommend it. Some of the descriptions of the times and the places are just glorious. Occasionally there will be a phrase that is hard to understand, since it was written in 1902, but that certainly doesn't detract from the wonderful writing.

The slow-paced understated love story is interesting, since both the Virginian and his schoolmarm lady friend from Vermont are so original...both a bit laconic, wry and reserved. The larger picture of the process of civili
Finished reading it. Loved doing a "Skype Book Group" of this book. Good guy who is not perfect...but works hard to do a good job and win the love of a Lady, who is a good woman.

Liked the story and how the Virginian changed some...but not in the most important moral issues.

I wanted to read this since Wyoming is where I grew up. I lived near Medicine Bow and visit it many times. Saw the hotel named the Virginian which of course had nothing to do with the book other than capitalizing on the name
I first read this book when I was a young teenager and thought it was wonderful. I reread it last night so a friend who is reading it for a book club and I could talk about it. From a different perspective entirely, I still love this book. I love the philosophical discussions and dichotomies in the story: good vs. evil; justice vs. corruption; naivete vs. experience; sadism vs. kindness; honor vs. cowardice; and much more. I love the quintessential cowboy story. I love the episodic treatment.I l ...more
Wayne S.
“The Virginian’s pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: ‘When you call me that, smile.’ And he looked at Trampas across the table.” This novel, the first true western that paved the way for other famous authors such as Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, cover ...more

I enjoyed The Virginian immensely. It’s the perfect book: it combines romance, humor, mystery and action all in one package – and to top it off, it is full of morals.
The narrator opens our minds to the big wide, wild world of the 19th Century American West, mainly through his interactions with the Virginian, an easterner who had come west as a teen to find his lot in life. And, we learn many lessons along the way.
I will discuss three of these lessons in this paper:
1) Treat others better than t
Still thinking about this one. Lots to think about and to imagine. The imagery is fantastic. Didn't much care for Molly with self importance and head games. Didn't like her mother ever. Her great aunt was all right. Molly was much better once her head got screwed on straight. The Virginian was pretty decent although he lost me a few times in the conversations with the other cowboys. I finally began to get it a few pages later. I've never read any westerns although I saw my share of the movies, b ...more
I did not expect to like this novel very much, but I changed my expectations shortly after beginning it. The character of the Virginian is so mysterious, yet endearing, even if the rest of the book had been boring I would have kept reading just to further discover his character. But it wasn't boring, anyway. The secondary characters are well fleshed-out and believable, and Molly Wood, the Virginian's love-interest, was feminine without being washed-out and strong without being unladylike. I want ...more
Lars Guthrie
After reading 'Shane,' and 'True Grit,' I wanted to get into this seminal western, one I have meaning to take in for many years. Perhaps I hesitated because I was worried about slogging through the kind of prose and world-view I associate with early Twentieth-century fiction. I was surprised. Despite its admittedly achronistic style, 'The Virginian' moves along, in an accessible series of vignettes that give a nuanced and realistic picture of 'The Wild West,' an era that waxed and waned in such ...more
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Owen Wister was born on July 14, 1860, in Germantown, a neighborhood within the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Owen Jones Wister, was a wealthy physician, one of a long line of Wisters raised at the storied Belfield estate in Germantown. His mother, Sarah Butler Wister, was the daughter of actress Fanny Kemble.
He briefly attended schools in Switzerland and Britain, and la
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The Virginian and Other Westerns by Owen Wister Lin McLean Lady Baltimore The Dragon Of Wantley, His Rise, His Voracity And His Downfall: A Romance (1892) Ulysses S. Grant

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“When a man ain't got no ideas of his own, he'd ought to be kind o' careful who he borrows 'em from.” 23 likes
“It was through the Declaration of Independence that we Americans acknowledged the eternal inequality of man. For by it we abolished a cut-and-dried aristocracy. We had seen little men artificially held up in high places, and great men artificially held down in low places, and our own justice-loving hearts abhorred this violence to human nature. Therefore, we decreed that every man should thenceforth have equal liberty to find his own level. By this very decree we acknowledged and gave freedom to true aristocracy, saying, "Let the best man win, whoever he is." Let the best man win! That is America's word. That is true democracy. And true democracy and true aristocracy are one and the same thing” 10 likes
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