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Owen Wister Biography

(1860–1938), The Virginian, Lin McLean, The Jimmy-john Boss, Philosophy Four, Lady Baltimore

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American Westernnovelist, born in Philadelphia, educated at Harvard, where he studied music. After two years furthering his musical studies in Europe, he worked in a New York bank, before illness took him to Wyoming in 1885. Wister later returned to Harvard to study law; he subsequently practised as a lawyer in Philadelphia. His Wyoming experiences continued to exert a powerful hold on his imagination and he began writing stories, based on the journal he had kept and focusing on the roles played by Easterners who were settling there. His first stories were well received on their publication in 1891 and he subsequently devoted himself to a career in literature. His greatest success came with his classic Western novel The Virginian (1902), which played an important part in shaping the popular Western myth of the lone stranger maintaining the forces of law and order in a community threatened with anarchy. Wister's other fiction includes the short-story collections Lin McLean (1896) and The Jimmy-john Boss (1900), and two novels with Eastern settings, Philosophy Four (1903) and Lady Baltimore (1906). He also wrote in a variety of other genres, producing books on Anglo-American relations, biographies of George Washington and his Harvard friend Theodore Roosevelt, and humorous works. His Western journals were published in 1958.

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