Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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was glad to part with them for whatever he could get. For most of them he did not receive more than $25, which was all to the advantage of the publisher, as any song with his name on the title-page was almost certain to have some sale, and there was always the chance that it might run into hundreds of thousands, as many of the earlier ones had. If this theory is correct, it would ac­count in a large measure for the poverty and distress of his last years, otherwise inexplicable.
There is nothing to indicate why the contract with - Firth, Pond & Co. was discontinued, as the records of the firm for these years have not been preserved. The other publishers who had dealings with Foster in the three years preceding his death have either gone out of business or have destroyed their records.
Whatever the circumstances, Stephen was stirred to greater activity than he had ever displayed before. His most prolific year up to this time had been his first as a professional song-writer, 1850, when he produced fifteen songs; his poorest years were 1856 and 1857, when he wrote only two songs, one each year. The years 1858 and 1859 each brought forth six; in 1860 there are eleven; thirteen in 1861, sixteen in 1862, and 1863, the last year of his life, was the most productive of all, with forty-eight. Eleven songs were published posthumously in 1864, the year of his death, three in 1865, and one each in 1866 and 1870.
Numerous as they are, if Stephen Foster had written nothing but these songs of his later years, his name would have been forgotten long ago. Most of them are extremely commonplace, and obviously are pot-boilers. Stephen had never mastered sufficiently the technic of composition to be able to produce interesting music on demand, and his vocabulary was so small that of neces­sity he repeated himself over and over again. He could usually find a melody of some sort without much trouble, but after a bar or two they are all apt to follow the same

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