Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains” as Want to Read:
The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  5,441 Ratings  ·  558 Reviews
A strong, silent stranger rides into the lawless lands of the western frontier, battles horse thieves, deals with unyielding scoundrels, and wins the heart of a schoolmarm. Owen Wister's 1902 classic — the first great novel of the American West — is rich in moral drama and vernacular wit. His hero — like knights of old — lives by an enduring code of chivalry and is governe ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 28th 2006 by Dover Publications (first published 1902)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Virginian, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Virginian

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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 really liked it  ·  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
Aug 20, 2008 Misfit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2016 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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
Oct 25, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elizabeth K.
Apr 23, 2012 Elizabeth K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-new-reads
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
Jul 06, 2016 Jim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 11, 2016 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a shame to have a book on my favorites shelf and never get around to reviewing it. This book is credited with being the first true Western written... The tale of the Virginian and how he made good in the West. He was from Virginia, hence the nickname (in a land where men were often known more by their handle than their Christian name)—only once, near the end, do we hear what that name is. Then there is the matter of the Eastern lady schoolteacher who comes out with high ideals of bringing c ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Ernie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 07, 2013 Bill Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2008 James rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Apr 14, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: early-westerns
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 10, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jan 30, 2012 Bridget rated it it was amazing  ·  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'
Feb 19, 2009 Rodney rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Apr 29, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This classic is considered by many to be the first 'Western'. It certainly has most if not all the tropes now considered to be standard for that genre! The hero, whose name we never learn, is a young man of about 24 when the story opens and at that time, he has already been on his own for 10 years and has traveled and worked in most of the West.

The descriptions of life in Wyoming in the period after the Civil War (~1870s) was well drawn and the romance between the cowboy and the schoolteacher f
Willowy Whisper
I put read, but that's not technically right. I only got part way through the first chapter...or something like that, before I gave up. So I can't really give it a rating. But...I love the TV show made after it (it's probably my favorite). The reading was just a little too slow, a little too old for me. But my Granddaddy (who told me I should read it and loaned me the book) said it was a good read, mostly because it showed in a literal sense how proper romance was conducted back then.
So, having
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
Jan 21, 2012 K. rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 07, 2013 Valjean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Melissa (ladybug)
Apr 11, 2012 Melissa (ladybug) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction, classics
This book wasn’t at all what I expected. I dreaded reading it because I thought it would be dry, hard to read western, but it wasn’t at all dry. I do not think it is a “western” at all. It is the story of the untamed wilderness when men were men and justice was immediate and harsh. It had a rawness and adventure feel to it that I was delighted to see. The modern westerns owe their beginnings to books such as “The Virginian”.

I could not stand to put this book down. Its gentle humor, the influence
Josh Hopping
Feb 13, 2013 Josh Hopping rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 27, 2008 Travis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-english
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
Oct 15, 2011 Karen S rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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!
Dec 04, 2013 Cherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-audio
I listened to this as an audio book from my library. It was wonderfully written. The stories had me laughing out loud or holding my breath waiting to see what was going to happen next or sobbing. The story of the baby swap was my favorite.

I grew up watching the old TV show from the 1960s with James Drury and Lee J. Cobb. I could still see all of their faces as I listened to Gene Engene read the book to me. Perfect!
Apr 04, 2010 Maciek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western
The titular Virginian is propably the most badass character ever created in fiction. The country teacher can't help falling in love with him, and the author obviously couldn't help it too - the manner in which he describes the Virginian and his actions are hilarious and awesome at the same time.
Thanks to this book I have started to like The Westerns and cowboys. Of course not those terrible movies.

Thanks to this book I have more understand what American spirit is. My understandings has started with books of Gwen Bristow and Nancy E. Turner. Owen Wister is a next step. This mixture of pride, freedom, independence, hard-work, sense of justice and law. And first of all, those differences between various states, territories.

A second great level of this book is a love story. It is so amazi
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
SSG: Spy/Spec-Ops...: Classic Westerns vs the Modern Thriller 2 6 Aug 22, 2015 11:06PM  
The Genre Explorers: The Virginian (Western) 24 11 Jan 18, 2015 07:13AM  
  • The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days
  • Monte Walsh
  • Riders of the Purple Sage
  • Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights
  • Laddie: A True Blue Story
  • The Lonesome Gods
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • The Time It Never Rained
  • The Searchers
  • The Shootist
  • The Deerslayer (The Leatherstocking Tales, #1)
  • Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning
  • Appaloosa (Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch, #1)
  • Billy Budd and The Piazza Tales
  • The Big Sky
  • The Proper Role of Government
  • Chip of the Flying U
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
More about Owen Wister...

Share This Book

“Forgive my asking you to use your mind. It is a thing which no novelist should expect of his reader...” 765 likes
“When a man ain't got no ideas of his own, he'd ought to be kind o' careful who he borrows 'em from.” 29 likes
More quotes…