Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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TRAGEDY                                91
New York. I have examined carefully at least a score of these "reminiscences" published in various periodi­cals during the last fifty years, and have found little in any of them worthy of credence, while many of them are obviously imaginary.
One evidence of their falsity is the fact that a large number of them were copied obviously one from another, sometimes word for word. This is a. striking character­istic of much of the literature about Foster. Not only are the same anecdotes repeated, but the very language of the originator of each story is perpetuated from year to year.
Each writer proclaims himself "Steve's only friend on earth," but if they could all have been assembled to­gether, they would have made a goodly company. The unappreciated genius has been stock in trade for ro­mancers the world over, and the temptation to make literary capital out of the friendless wanderer whose songs of home and mother had touched the world's heart was too strong to be resisted. "Loving music, he heard none; with a loving nature, he wandered the Bowery and saw no face he knew." "The most familiar sounds he heard were his own songs, the least familiar sight a friendly face." By these, and similar statements, have the journalists sought to bring out the "high lights" of his story.
A "reminiscence" which was reprinted frequently was written by George Birdseye. This article, with but slight changes in the wording, went on its way for many years from newspaper to magazine. Sometimes the re­print was acknowledged, usually it was put forth as some­thing new. Several copies of the Birdseye story, clipped from various periodicals, are included in Morrison Foster's papers; on the margin of one of them is the com­ment, "This fellow is evidently a fraud. M.F."
There is pathos enough in the reality, without painting \ the picture in any darker colors than need be. Stephen's 1 last days in New York were miserable enough in all

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