Virginian, The (in full The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains) Western novel by Wister, Owen, published in 1902. Its great popularity contributed to enshrining the American cowboy as an icon of American popular culture and a folk ideal.
A chivalrous and courageous but mysterious cowboy known only as "the Virginian" works as foreman of a cattle ranch in the Wyoming territory during the late 1870s and 1880s. The gunplay and violence that are inherent in his frontier code of behavior threaten the Virginian's relationship with a pretty schoolteacher from the East. The novel's climactic gun duel is the first "showdown" in fiction. It also introduced the now-classic phrase that the Virginian utters when pushed to the limit by an adversary, "When you call me that, smile!"