Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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might shed some light upon Foster's subsequent career and his failure to develop as a composer. Certain it is that he failed to realize the ambitions upon which he had embarked so hopefully, and from this time he seems to have drifted slowly toward the inevitable final trag­edy./Whether this was due to disappointment in his marriage or to innate characteristics, no one can now say. It has been suggested that his intemperate habits caused his wife to leave him, but there is no evidence that this weakness, which clouded the last years of his life, had fastened itself upon him to any great extent at the time of his marriage. On the contrary, it seems probable that it had not. So far as his marriage is concerned, it might have been either a cause or an effect. It may be that his wife had little sympathy with the impractical dreamer she had married. In this respect Foster's story is like that of many other men of great talentj The statement, sometimes made, that he had married "beneath him," is hardly borne out by the facts, for Miss McDowell was the daughter of a prominent physician, whose standing in the city may be judged from the fact that he was called upon to attend Charles Dickens when that dis­tinguished visitor was taken ill in Pittsburgh during his first American tour.
Her great-grandfather was President of the College at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1799, and for many years the family preserved a letter written to him by George Washington in the last year of his life:
Consequent of a letter I have received from Mr. Stuart, I have been induced to confide to your care the young gentleman who will deliver this letter (George Washington Parke Custis). You will find him intelligent, truthful and moral, and I have reason to hope he will live to justify the best expectations of his friends, and to be useful in the councils of his country.
It is quite possible that the unhappiness of the mar­riage has been exaggerated. Foster's whole life-story is clouded by a mass of gossipy, unreliable reminiscences, and his defects as well as his virtues have been exploited

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III