Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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final form. The book is dated "Alleghany City, June 26th, 1851." The first pages are taken up with the words of the song "Laura Lee," which was published later in the same year by F. D. Benteen, of Baltimore./ The pages of this book bear eloquent testimony that the childlike simplicity of Foster's verses was not the out­come of accident or the unconscious outpouring of an untutored brain, bul_the result of deliberate and pains­taking effort/* He had the true artist's feeling for the per­fect phrase, and he sought it patiently and persistently. For instance, the sketches for "Laura Lee" show how' he worked over the phrase "desert isle," which occurs in the second verse of this song. The first version is:
Bright were a desert isle,
Far in the sea, Warmed by thy sunny smile,
Sweet Laura Lee.
A few lines below this, the phrase occurs again:
Earth seems a desert isle, Far in the sea.
On the next page:
How like a desert isle
Earth seems to me, Robbed of thy sunny smile,
Sweet Laura Lee.
This is the form finally adopted, although his experi­ments with this and other phrases continue for several pages.
The pages of this book contain various notations in Foster's writing, such as "Rented office July 28th,'51," "Sent Laura Lee July 19th," and the address of "Cramer, Beale & Co., Music Publishers, 210 Regent St., London." If he ever had any correspondence with these publishers, it evidently came to naught, as there is no record of their having published any of his songs. An English edition of forty of his songs was published many years later by C. Sheard, London, during the vogue of the Christy Minstrels in England and after the composer's death.

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