Owen Wister, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 14, 1860, began his career with a serious interest in music and only later became interested in writing. After being educated in private schools in the United States and abroad, he attended Harvard University, where he was graduated with highest honors in music in 1882. He then spent two years abroad, studying composition in Paris until ill health forced his return to the United States. Following a period as a bank employee in New York City, he suffered a nervous breakdown and traveled to Wyoming to recuperate in the healthful atmosphere of a Western cattle ranch. He associated with the large cattle barons who were then engaged in a struggle with smaller ranchers that culminated in the Johnson County Range War of 1892. What Wister saw and heard formed the background for his novel The Virginian. From 1885 to 1888 he attended the Harvard Law School. After graduation he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Philadelphia.
His growing fondness for the West led Wister to make other trips to Wyoming during the early 1890’s, and he incorporated incidents and experiences into short stories that won immediate recognition. Two short stories based on Western life, “Hank’s Woman” (1891) and “How Lin McLean Went West” (1891), published in Harper’s Magazine, were his first literary works to attract a wide audience. Such volumes as Red Men and White and The...
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