Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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98               STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
uncertain, but Mr. Robinson believes that it was just before the outbreak of the war, probably late in 1860, or early in 1861. They stopped at the St. Nicholas Hotel, on Broadway, near Spring Street, and the street, jammed with busses, made a deep impression on the small boy. He remembers that his father hunted up Stephen and brought him to dinner at the hotel and that they had a merry time. After dinner they all went to Laura Keen's Theatre. Mr. Robinson is under the impression that Stephen was making a living as a music-teacher. He remembers him as bright and entertaining, and in his recollection of the event there is no hint of the misery and destitution that afterward overtook Stephen.
In 1888 the New York "Evening Sun" published a long interview with "a Pittsburgh gentleman who is about to write a life of Stephen C. Foster, the author of 'Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming,' 'Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground,' 'Old Dog Tray,' the incomparable 'Old Folks at Home,' which has brought the tears to thou­sands of eyes when sung by Mme. Christine Nilsson and other divas equally celebrated, and many other melodies which still ring in the ears of millions of lovers of har­mony in this and other countries." Other references to projected biographies of Stephen Foster are to be found, but apparently none of them was ever brought to com­pletion.
All of these reminiscences emphasize his drunkenness and destitution. If they are to be believed, he had sunk to the lowest depths of disreputable degradation. It is undoubtedly true that the alcoholic habit had laid hold on Stephen too tightly ever to be thrown off. It is spoken of by Robert P. Nevin, in his friendly and sym­pathetic memoir published in 1867:
His disposition was truly amiable, although from the tax imposed by close application to study, liable to fits of fretfulness and scep­ticism. Occasional and transient as they were, they told with dis­tressing effect upon his temper. In the same unfortunate direction was the tendency of habit grown insidiously upon him, a habit







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