Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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46               STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
of "Uncle Ned," although of this I am doubtful. Mr. Peters has my receipt for each of the songs.
The only information which I can give you in regard to the dates, as my memory does not serve me, must be in copying the years named on the title pages of the Cincinnati publications \sic\ from which I infer that "Louisiana Belle" was copyrighted in 1847, the others in 1848.
If I can see Mr. Roark, who lives in our city, I will give you further information in regard to the letter which I wrote him.
I have the honor, Sir, to subscribe myself,
Very respectfully,           Stephen Foster.
It will be observed that the Peters publications are referred to as "the Cincinnati publications." Morrison Foster refers to Peters as being in business in Cincinnati, although the copyrights were taken out byW. C. Peters, "of Louisville." (Later the name appears on the copy­rights, "W. C. Peters, Cincinnati.")
Unfortunately, the "letter to Mr. Roark" and the "further information" referred to have not survived the passage of time, and there is no other evidence on the subject.
With the exception of "Uncle Ned" the songs are not especially characteristic of Stephen Foster, nor typical of him at his best. They are essentially "minstrel" songs, and require burnt cork and a banjo to reveal their true character. Negro minstrelsy had not made much artistic progress since its beginning about 1830. The negro was still made a buffoon, a crude caricature. Gib­berish had become a staple of composition, the wit of the performance consisting largely in the misuse of language. A small amount of original composition was contributed from time to time, but for the most part the songs were adaptations of tunes in vogue among the Hardshell Baptists in Tennessee and at the Methodist Camp-meetings in Kentucky, with a few backwoods melodies, and now and then a reveller straying from the opera or the concert room.
Foster's songs are rollicking jingles, infectious tunes x with insistent rhythm provided by a banjo accompani­ment, the words a farrago of nonsense:







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