Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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92               STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
truth and his death one of the saddest of all those re­corded in the old, old story of unhappy genius. "Facilis descensus Averni." Stephen's downfall was probably the result of a gradual disintegration that had been going on through the years. If we shall never know the causes or exact circumstances, we know enough to awaken a sense of pity. Let us endeavor to avoid the highly colored pallet of the special writer on the one hand and the obliterating whitewash brush of the special pleader on the other.
Stephen went to New York in July, 1860. There is no evidence that he broke off relations with his family by doing so. William B. Foster, Jr., the "big brother" of his childhood, had died in Philadelphia a few months before, but his other brothers, Morrison and Henry, were still interested in him, as were his sisters. He was thirty-four years old when he went to New York and still young enough to have rescued his life from disaster, had he possessed the necessary strength of character.
Whether or not his wife and daughter accompanied him to New York in 1860, I do not know. One of the few reminiscences that bear any evidence of credibility was written for the "New York Clipper" in 1877 by John Mahon. He tells of meeting Foster in 1861, at Windust's Restaurant in Park Row, "a short man, who was very neatly dressed in a blue swallow-tailed coat, high silk hat, and-so-forth (the and-so-foith I forget). I must say I found him most social and conversational. I took him to my residence and introduced him to my family, and nearly all of his latest songs were composed upon my piano. At that time he boarded at No. 83 Greene Street, with his wife and little daughter Marian, who was about eight years old. The boarding-house was kept by a Mr. and Mrs. Stewart."
If Mrs. Foster was in New York in 1861, she must have left soon after, for she was not with him during his last days, nor at the time of his death.







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