Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy birthday, Owen Wister.

Lawyer, friend of Theodore Roosevelt and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., staunch opponent of censorship, and grandson of actress Fanny Kemble, Pennsylvania native Owen Wister was born today in 1860.

His greatest claims to fame are his biography of TR, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship 1880-1919 (1930), and his novel The Virginian (1902), a cornerstone of the Western genre, or, as the New York Times put it, a "stirring novel of Western life [. . . it] undoubtedly will be read very widely." The reviewer was prophetic: At the time of Wister's death in July 1938, the New York Times stated that The Virginian had sold 1.5 million copies. It was adapted as a play and several films, including a classic one with Gary Cooper in 1929.

Historian John Lukacs mourns the lack of a "true and startling biography of Wister" here.

"...the sad truth is that enlightenment is mostly a stay-at-home creature, who crosses neither ocean nor frontier."--Owen Wister, "The Evolution of a Cow-Puncher" (Harper's, 1895; rpt. in The Virginian, Oxford UP, 1998)

No comments: