Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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II
BOYHOOD
Oddly enough, the first reference to Stephen in these family letters pictures him at the age of six absorbed in musical activities. It occurs in a letter written by his mother to his eldest brother, William.
Harmony, May the 14, 1832. My dear Son,—
I have already written one letter to Ann Eliza, the only time that I have had a pen in hand, that I can recollect, for two years or more. Besides the very many perplexities of house-keeping, there was the weak and tremulous state I was left in after the death of your ever to be lamented sister Charlotte and equally interesting little brother James. My body has only recovered strength since my mind was restored to that tranquility which comes only from a perfect recon­ciliation to the will of that Omniscient Power which regulates and rules. Although the vessels are broken which I hewed out to hold the sources of my earthly joys, the delightful cottage and the sound of the deep-toned instrument still comes dancing on in the arrear of memory, with pain and sorrow at thought of how it closed forever with the departure from this transitory stage of her we loved so dearly. But now I have little to ask, all is well that God in His mercy sends me. I lead a quiet life, you are getting along, Ann Eliza is in Meadville, and content, Henry likes the manual training insti­tution. Your Father is in Pittsburgh and the little children go to school with quite as happy faces as though the world had no thorns in it, and I confess there would be but few if we would all follow the Scriptures, in which we would be made strong. Write to me soon and I will try to answer it.
Your affectionate mother,
Eliza C. Foster.
I thought the mail would not close until I could finish my letter, but being late I concluded rather hastily without saying anything about Stephen, who has a drum and marches about after the old way, with a feather in his hat and a girdle round his waist, whistling "Auld Lang Syne." He often asks why you don't come home. There still remains something perfectly original about him. Dunn­ing has written several letters to you and he does not know but that they are worthy of being answered; however, he drives on. He means to write another soon. We should like to hear from you, as Pa may receive letters in Pittsburgh without our knowing how you do out here. That we may be all together again when it pleaseth God, the unseen influence that directs our ways, is the sincere prayer of one who proudly claims the name of Mother to the best of sons.
William B. Foster, Junior, to whom this letter was written, had left home in 1826, the year of Stephen's
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