Tennessee's Partner (short story)

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"Tennessee's Partner"
AuthorBret Harte
CountryUnited States
Published inOverland Monthly
Publication type[[Periodical literature |Periodical]]
Media typePrint
Publication date1869

Tennessee's Partner is a short story by Bret Harte, first published in the Overland Monthly in 1869, which has been described as "one of the earliest 'buddy' stories in American fiction."[1] It was later loosely adapted into four films.


An audiobook version of Tennessee’s Partner read by Nick Number.

The story is set in Sandy Bar, an Old West town, and focuses on two men, nicknamed "Tennessee" and "Tennessee's Partner." While Tennessee is a reckless gambler, his partner is humorless and practical. Despite their disparate personalities, they share a strong friendship that did not fail even when Tennessee was responsible for his partner's bride estranging him.

When Tennessee blatantly tries to steal from a stranger, he is arrested and put on trial. Tennessee's Partner tries to stick up for his friend, saying that he might not agree with everything Tennessee does, but he still supports him. Tennessee's Partner then tries to bribe the judge, so as to pay for his partner's crime, but the judge refuses. Tennessee shakes hands with his partner, telling him, "Euchred, old man!" Tennessee's Partner claims that he was just passing through and decided to check up on Tennessee. Neither speak to each other again and Tennessee is hanged.

Tennessee's Partner asks for the body of his friend and as he takes the donkey-cart away, other people follow out of curiosity or jest. Once Tennessee's Partner reaches his cabin, he makes a grave for his dead partner and declares that he carried Tennessee home, just as he'd done while his friend was alive. After declining in health, Tennessee's Partner goes out into a storm and dies, thus reuniting with his partner.

Publication history[edit]

First printed in California in the Overland Monthly for October 1869,[2] "Tennessee's Partner" was reprinted the following month in Baltimore, in the New Eclectic Magazine.[3] In 1870 the story was published in a collected volume of Harte's short stories, printed in Boston, The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches. Reviews of the volume appeared in the Lakeside Monthly,[4] the Atlantic Monthly[5] and in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine,[6] all giving particular mention to "Tennessee's Partner". In the same year the story was anthologized in London in George Augustus Sala's A 3rd Supply of Yankee Drolleries: The Most Recent Works of the Best American Humourists. Thereafter it continued to appear in magazines, such as Boston's weekly Every Saturday of Jan. 14, 1871,[7] as well as in other anthologies and in collections of Bret Harte's work.

Literary criticism[edit]

  • Tara Penry, "'Tennessee's Partner' as Sentimental Western Metanarrative", American Literary Realism, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Winter, 2004), pp. 148–165.


The short story has been filmed as Tennessee's Pardner (1916), The Flaming Forties (1924), The Golden Princess (1925), and Tennessee's Partner (1955).


  1. ^ Scofield, Martin (2006-09-14). The Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story. Cambridge University Press. pp. 55–. ISBN 9781139457651. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  2. ^ Overland Monthly vol. 3 at Google Books
  3. ^ New Eclectic Magazine 1869 at Google Books.
  4. ^ Review of the collection in the Lakeside Monthly, June 1870: "They are all scenes from what it is common in cities to denominate "low life" ... "Miggles" and "Tennessee's Partner" are pictures of affection – the one of the purity of woman's love, the other of the devotion of man's friendship – and both illustrated by the grotesque characters of this low life of which we have spoken."
  5. ^ Review of the collection in the Atlantic Monthly, May 1870: "We suppose women generally would not find his stories amusing or touching, though perhaps some woman with an unusual sense of humor would feel the tenderness, the delicacy, and the wit that so win the hearts of his own sex. ... We think it probable that ... a man only could relish the rude pathos of Tennessee's partner"
  6. ^ Review of the collection in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Oct. 1871: "None of the other short stories in the volume are equal to "Roaring Camp," though "Tennessee's Partner," the "Man of no Account," and the "Idyll of Red Gulch," are all very striking, and show the writer's power of bringing out true human nature, tenderness, and moral beauty out of the saddest wrecks and fragments of humanity. We cannot refrain from quoting an unsuccessful attempt on the part of Tennessee's partner to rescue his principal from the hands of Judge Lynch, who had caught and convicted him of aggravated highway robbery, and was about to hang the culprit. ..."
  7. ^ Every Saturday, Volume 2 at Google Books.

External links[edit]