Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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AMBITION
65
host of imitators. He enjoyed an enormous vogue in England during the 1850's and '60's, his achievements including a "command performance" before Queen Vic­toria. Even the great Mr. Gladstone was sometimes to be found in Christy's audience.
One of the tributes to the negro minstrel of the Christy type is from the pen of Thackeray:
I heard a humorous balladist not long since, a minstrel who per­formed a negro ballad that, I confess, moistened these spectacles in a most unexpected manner. I have gazed at thousands of tragedy queens dying on the stage and expiring to appropriate blank verse, and I never wanted to wipe them; they have looked up, be it said, at many scores of clergymen without being dimmed; and behold, a vagabond with corked face and a banjo sings a little song, strikes a wild note and sets the heart thrilling with happy pity.
Bayard Taylor, in "India, China and Japan," pub­lished in 1853, describes a wandering Hindoo minstrel singing "O Susanna" and other Ethiopian melodies in Delhi.
The singing of Foster's songs by the Christy Minstrels undoubtedly had much to do with their widespread popu­larity. A book of the words of songs sung by Christy's Minstrels, published in 1851 for sale at the performances, contains the words of forty-six songs, of which fourteen are by Stephen Foster.
The song "The Old Folks at Home" was published by Firth, Pond & Co. in the fall of 1851 as "Ethiopian Mel­ody as sung by Christy's Minstrels. Written and com­posed by E. P. Christy." Foster sold to Christy the privilege of singing several of his songs before publica­tion, one of them being "Oh Boys, Carry Me 'Long," mentioned in the letters quoted above. In the case of "The Old Folks at Home," he sold not only the right to sing the song in advance of publication, but the privilege of publishing Christy's name on the title-page as author and composer. Morrison Foster states that Christy paid $500 for this privilege, but there is evidence that his memory was at fault with regard to the amount. This







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