Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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100             STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
the purity of his soul and the manner of his life. He impressed all who met him with the delicacy and sensi­bility of his nature. A more robust character, a stronger will, might have taken a firmer grip on life and shaken off the benumbing influence of the weakness that ruined his career, but on the other hand probably such a tem­perament could not have produced "Swanee River." "Sensitive, introspective, given to brooding rather than ' to action, Stephen paid the penalty of his temperament; the world is richer for his weakness.
Out-of the incomplete and somewhat conflicting testi­mony bn the subject, one fact emerges free from doubt and conjecture; Stephen Foster was admitted to Ward 11, in Bellevue Hospital, January 10, 1864, and died there on January 13th. This was a charity ward, the last port of many of the city's human derelicts. Stephen Foster's name is entered on the register as "laborer," evidently because he was poorly dressed and unidentified as belonging to any particular occupation.
So far as the record of the family letters is concerned, the end of Stephen's life is told by the letter and telegram from George Cooper, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, and by a receipt given to Morrison Foster by the Warden of the hospital:
Ward 11, Stephen Foster, Died January 13th;
Coat, pants, vest, hat, shoes, overcoat, January 10, 1864, Received of Mr. Foster ten shillings charge for Stephen C. Foster, while in hospital, Jan. 16,1864. William E. White, Warden, Bellevue Hospital.
One of the most interesting events connected with the writing of this biography was the discovery that George Cooper, the friend who notified Morrison Foster of his brother's illness and death, is still living; Mr. Cooper is able to furnish some accurate and first-hand information with regard to Stephen's last days, and to dispose of many of the legends and faulty reminiscences which have flourished of late years. His collaboration with Stephen







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