Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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AMBITION
57
Give the stranger happy cheer,
When o'er his cheek the tear-drops start;
The balm that flows from one kind word, May heal the wound in a breaking heart.
"The Voice of By-gone Days," published in this year, is a vocal duet, dedicated to Robert P. Nevin, father of the composer, Ethelbert Nevin, to whose reminiscences of Stephen Foster reference has been made. Musically speaking it is a feeble effort, the "duet" being constructed by doubling the melody at the interval of a third below.
Four of these 1850 songs were published by Firth, Pond & Co., of New York, the others by F. D. Benteen, of Baltimore. With both of these publishers he had signed contracts on a royalty basis.
This year, his first as a professional composer, was important in his life for another reason, for it was the date of his marriage to Miss Jane Denny McDowell, the daughter of Dr. Andrew N. McDowell, one of Pitts­burgh's leading physicians. Of this event, so important and significant, little can be said except that it took place July 22nd, 1850. Of the love-affair which preceded it or the circumstances surrounding it, there remains not a trace. The fair flowers of many a forgotten spring­time, of which he sang so feelingly, have not vanished more completely than the memory of his own romance.
The young lady was a singer, as she is mentioned as the contralto of a "Stephen Foster Quartet," the soprano being Susan Pentland, to whom Stephen had dedicated "Open Thy Lattice, Love" years before. Miss McDowell was probably one of the young ladies to whom the young composer turned for inspiration and encouragement, although among his numerous dedications none is to her.
The marriage seems to have been an unhappy one. It would be idle, and even impertinent, to speculate as to the causes of the unhappiness, except in so far as it







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