11 October 2002
WISTER, Owen (1860-1938). The Virginian. A Horseman of the Plains. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902.
8o. Frontispiece and plates by Arthur I. Keller. Original decorated cloth (a bit worn and soiled, hinges weak). Provenance: Barrett Wendell (1855-1921, presentation inscription; ALS from the author, with envelope mounted on rear pastedown); William Greenough Wendell (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION of Wister's highly successful novel set in late 19th-century Wyoming. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY WISTER TO BARRETT WENDELL on the front flyleaf: "Barrett Wendell from Owen Wister. June 1902." Wendell was Wister's professor of English at Harvard and the two men maintained a close, pedagogical relationship after Wister's graduation. Wendell was also a noted literary critic, writing studies of Cotton Mather and William Shakespeare.
WITH AN ALS BY WISTER TO WENDELL LAID-IN, Saunderstown, Rhode Island, 17 June 1902. 2 pages, 8o. Wendell responds to his old composition teacher's critiques of his work: "...Yes. Construction is practically nil. Yes. Style bothersome at times... I believe I'll get out of that tight style. You've called my attention to it before, and I think I know exactly what you mean..."
Wendell's criticism's aside, Wister's novel created an enduring American hero, the strong yet sensitive horseman of the plains. This new masculine ideal obviously spoke to many, as The Virginian sold over a million and a half copies and has been adapted numerous times for stage and screen. Dobie, p.124; Graff 4725; Johnson High Spots, p.81; Reese, Six Score 116.
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