The Virginian (otherwise titled The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains) is a pioneering 1902 novel set in the Wild West by the American author Owen Wister. Describing the life of the foreman of the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming, it was the first true western written, aside from the tiny dime novels. It paved the way for many more westerns by famous authors such as Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and several others.
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.