Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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50              STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
fame had reached in a few months such proportions as to attract the attention and interest of a New York music-publishing house, one of the largest and foremost of the time.
This relation between Stephen Foster and the house of Firth, Pond & Co., was to grow and to endure through many years. Of the very considerable amount of corre­spondence which passed between them, only two or three letters have survived. One of the earliest was written by the publishers to Foster on September 12th of this year (1849):
No. 1 Franklin Square, New York. S. C. Foster, Esq., Dear Sir:
Your favor of 8th instant is received and we hasten to reply.
We will accept the proposition therein made, viz., to allow you two cents upon every copy of your future publications issued by our house, after the expenses of publication are paid, and of course it is always our interest to push them as widely as possible. From your acquaintance with the proprietors or managers of different bands of "Minstrels," and from your known reputation, you can undoubt­edly arrange with them to sing them and thus introduce them to the public in that way, but in order to secure the copyright exclusively for our house, it is safe to hand such persons printed copies only, of the pieces, for if manuscript copies are issued, particularly by the author, the market will be flooded with spurious issues in a short time.
It is also advisable to compose only such pieces as are likely both in the sentiment and melody to take the public taste. Numer­ous instances can be cited of composers whose reputation has greatly depreciated from the fact of their music becoming too popular and as a natural consequence they write too much and too fast and in a short time others supercede them.
As soon as "Brother Gum" makes his appearance he shall be joined to pretty "Nelly" and your interest in the two favorites duly forwarded to your address, say SO copies of each.
We remain, in the hope of hearing from you soon, Very truly yours,
Firth, Pond & Co.
The "Pretty Nelly" referred to in this letter is the song "Nelly Was a Lady" mentioned by Morrison Foster as having been sent to New York by Stephen. It even­tually found its way to Firth, Pond & Co., and was published by them in the latter part of 1849, or early in 1850, together with three other songs, under the







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