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24 STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
I can see him speaking "Lord Ullin's Daughter" as though it was yesterday; at the close he would fold his arms, throw back his head and tragically exclaim, "My daughter, oh my daughter!"
One of Stephen's friends at Athens was William
Wallace Kingsbury, who afterwards became the first
United States Senator from Minnesota. Among his
reminiscences is this reference to Stephen:
Well do I remember the inimitable Stephen C. Foster. He was my special friend and companion. Being a year older than myself and considerably larger, he used to defend me in my boyhood antagonisms with belligerent schoolmates. We often played truant together, rambling by shady streams or gathering wild strawberries in the meadows or pastures far removed from the old Academy bell. Our mutual luxury, in which we jointly indulged in those excursions without leave, was in going barefoot and wading in pools of running water that meandered through Mercer's farm and down Mix's Run in the village of my nativity. Foster wore a fine quality of hose, and I remember how it shocked me to see him cast them away when soiled by perspiration or muddy water. His was a nature generous to a fault, with a soul attuned to harmony. His love of music was an all-absorbing passion and his execution on the flute was the very genius of melody and gave rise to those flights of inspired pathos which have charmed the English-speaking world with their excellence from cabin to palace.
There is a reference to Stephen in a letter to William
from his father, dated Pittsburgh, April 27th, 1840:
I wrote to Stephen on the 18th and scolded him pretty smartly for not having written to us more frequently, but he is not quite so much to blame as I then thought, for in the evening of that day I received a letter from him which was dated the 27th of March, and must have been twenty-one days on the way. I wish you to tell him of this.
Up to this time there is no reference in any of the family archives to Stephen's taste for music. The legends about his sister's guitar and the flageolet in Smith & Mellor's Music Store were remembered long afterwards, when his life had taken definite form and direction. At some time in his childhood he learned to play upon the flute, an accomplishment which helped him to win an unfortunate social popularity later in life. His flute is one of the objects now on view in the pathetically small museum of Fosterana at the Foster Homestead Memorial in Pittsburgh. In some manner also he learned