Owen Wister


Owen Wister

Chronicler of the West, Gentleman of the East

Darwin Payne

416 pages
21 illustrations


October 2011


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

In what remains the only full-length biography of Owen Wister (1860–1938), Darwin Payne details the life of the man who created the popular image of the cowboy that dominated American culture from the early 1900s to the 1960s. Payne follows Wister from his privileged childhood in Philadelphia, to his undergraduate days at Harvard, to his musical studies in Europe, to his “discovery” of the West, and through his maturation as an individual and a writer. Payne draws on Wister’s own voluminous papers and writings in delineating, for the first time, the real-life incident that prompted Wister to invent the character of “the Virginian,” and in presenting the actual individual whom the famous character most closely resembles. Payne also provides intimate details about Wister’s surprising friendships with such prominent American figures as Theodore Roosevelt, William Dean Howells, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William James, Frederic Remington, and John Jay Chapman.

Author Bio

Darwin Payne is professor emeritus of communications at Southern Methodist University and the author of several books, including Quest for Justice: Louis A. Bedford Jr. and the Struggle for Equal Rights in Texas and Indomitable Sarah: The Life of Judge Sarah T. Hughes.


“No previous discussions of Wister have been so probing or revealing as this account of the author’s humanness. . . . [This is] an authoritative life-story of Owen Wister, a central figure in understanding the important role of the West in American culture.”—Richard W. Etulain, Pacific Historical Review

“An excellent biography of the most complex of American eccentrics, who also invented the Western cowboy novel.”—National Review

“This is a first-rate biography. . . . Payne has written a sensitive, candid, balanced life of Owen Wister that is likely to remain the standard study of the writer for some time to come.”—Edwin R. Bingham, Journal of American History

“Darwin Payne is to be congratulated on this fresh, thorough, and fair-minded study of Owen Wister.”—Howard R. Lamar, Journal of the Southwest

"Gracefully written and exhaustively researched."—Choice

Table of Contents

Part One
I. A Gentleman Born (1860-1878)
II. Harvard, Class of '82 (1878-1882)
III. The European Judgment (1882-1883)
IV. A Boston Stopover (1883-1885)
V. Discovery (1885)
Part Two
VI. An Uncertain Scholar (1885-1888)
VII. Western Storyteller (1889-1892)
VIII. In Search of Material (1892-1895)
IX. Fame and Marriage (1895-1898)
X. Overnight Celebrity (1899-1902)
XI. "The Virginian" on Broadway (1903-1904)
XII. A Novel of Manners (1904-1906)
Part Three
XIII. In the Public Arena (1907-1908)
XIV. Tribulations (1909-1914)
XV. The Curmudgeon Unveiled (1914-1923)
XVI. Entanglements (1923-1938)

Also of Interest