Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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features were his eyes. They were very dark and very large and lit up with unusual intelligence. His hair was dark, nearly black. The color of his eyes and hair he inherited from his mother, some of whose remote ances­tors were Italian, though she was directly of English descent. In conversation he was very interesting, but more suggestive than argumentative. He was an excel­lent listener, though well informed on every current topic.
"It was difficult to get him to go into society at all. He had a great aversion to its shams and glitter, and pre­ferred the realities of his home and the quiet of his study. When he was eighteen years old, a lady who was an old friend of the family, gave a large party and invited us all, and added, 'Tell Stephen to bring his flute with him.' That settled it so far as he was concerned. He
would not go a step. He said, 'Tell Mrs.------I will send
my flute if she desires it.' This dislike to being classed as a mere performer characterized him during his whole life, though he was not at all unsocial, and willingly sang or played for the enjoyment of himself or others, if the occasions were spontaneous and not set up. He, how­ever, often sang in chorus with others, upon occasions of concerts for charitable purposes in Pittsburgh.
"While he never aspired to greatness as a performer, his voice was a true and pleasing baritone, sonorous and sympathetic. When he sang his own songs, which he did to a perfection no one else could attain, there was a plaintive sweetness in his tone and accent which some­times drew tears from listeners' eyes.
"He would sit at home in the evening at the piano and improvise by the hour beautiful strains and har­monies which he did not preserve, but let them float away like fragrant flowers cast upon the flowing waters. Occasionally he would vary his occupation by singing in plaintive tones one of his own or other favorite songs. Of the latter class he much admired the 'May Queen' of

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