Philosophy 4 by Owen Wister

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OWEN WISTER was born in Philadelphia, July 14, 1860. He is the fourth generation of his family in direct descent that has occupied itself with literature, both prose and verse. Among his forbears were members of the famous Kemble family of actors, to which belonged Mrs. Siddons, and her gifted nieces Adelaide Kemble (Mrs. Sartoris, singer, and author of "A Week in a French Country House") and Fanny Kemble, actress and writer, who was Mr. Wister's grandmother.

In 1892 he abandoned his chosen profession, the law, and began to devote himself steadily to imaginative writing, which had already for some years previous to this occupied him from time to time. His first literary production was entitled " Down in a Diving Bell," and was published in the boys' paper at St. Paul's School, when he was thirteen years old. His first contribution to a standard magazine appeared in the Atlantic Monthly when he was twenty-one, before his graduation from Harvard, and was a poem addressed to Beethoven. His latest published writing is a story entitled 'How the Energy was Conserved," in Collier's Weekly, February 21, 1903. Mr. Wister's published volumes are : "'the Dragon of Wantley," 1892; "Red Men and White," 1895; "Lin McLean," 1891; "Ulysses S. Grant," 1900; " The Jimmyjohn Boss," 1900; " The Virginian," 1902.

The reception of his latest book has been increasingly enthusiastic. The Nation says:--

"The dramatic thrill in it is very quick, and the outcome so satisfactory that one realizes an immense fear of disappointment. 'The Virginian' is one of the most popular books of the season; it deserves to endure through many seasons."

A large part of the appeal which his books make lies in their absolute truth to the life which he studied so thoroughly, making fifteen separate journeys to the Western country within ten years. As all the critics say of his nameless hero :--

"'The Virginian' is a 'sure enough' man."

Mr. Hamblen Sears, reviewing " The Virginian" at length in the The Book Buyer, says that this is

"fiction of the sort we want. It tells us of the real man of America in such a human, such an accurate way that we keep on saying, 'I've seen that a dozen times,' when not one of us would ever know he had seen it unless a Wister had set it down."

But almost equally strong is the charm of their perfect wholesomeness; along with the heartache of wide spaces, it is true, comes the grim tragedy of primitive life before the law reached the plains, but through it all is felt the sweep of Western winds, and sunny, exhilarating fresh air which, so the Boston Transcript declares,

"ought to help the consumptive nearly as much as to breathe the real air of the real country."

"To read this book is an unalloyed delight. It carries you along with a rush and a sweep, and at the final page you lay it dawn feeling full of the best brand of Western ozone, and almost sunburnt from perusing it."--New York Sun.

"It is in humor--spontaneous, genuine, contagious humor--that the book especially excels. Passages that provoke hearty laughter are many, but that is a detail beside the main point, that this humor is of the essence of American life, that it springs naturally from the situation, and because it is the real thing it is funny as often as you come across it."--Boston Herald.

Yet there is far more to the book than jest or tragedy, or even its convincing picturesqueness, and pride of youth and strength.

"It is a love story which constitutes its burden, but it is the quaintest lovemaking--exquisite in its humanity, its insight, its humor, its fidelity to truth." --Brooklyn Eagle.

"It is a very human, very tantalizing love story."--Boston Transcript.

In England as in his own country, "The Virginian" has proved "very human, very satisfying." The well-known critic, Mr. W. D. Courtney, made it the text for a long and remarkably appreciative article on the recent advance in American fiction. And "it is books like Mr. Wister's that make the true American," says the Chicago Tribune.

"It is one of the best romances of the West in American literature, and by far the most striking picture of a genuine cowboy that has yet been painted."--San Francisco Chronicle.


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"There is not a page in Mr. Wister's new book which is not interesting. This is its first great merit, that it arouses the sympathy of the reader and holds him absorbed and amused to the end. It does a great deal more for him. . . . Whoever reads the first page will find it next to impossible to put the book down until he has read every one of the five hundred and four in the book, and then he will wish there were more of them."

--The New York Tribune.

"Mr. Wister has drawn real men and real women, and a day that America has centuries of reason for pride in, now passing away forever. . . . No one writes of the frontier with more interest than this young Philadelphia author, and no one writes literature more essentially American. In The Virginian he has put forth a book that will be remembered and read with interest for many years hence. May he soon write another as good!"

--The Chicago American.


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Date created: 3/6/97
Last modified: 3/7/97
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