Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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102             STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
at Home.' I am glad to know you." As I spoke, the tears came to his eyes, and he said:
"Pardon my tears, young lady, you have spoken the first kind words I have heard in a long time. God bless you." I gave him both hands, saying:
"They will not be the last." I asked him to sit at my desk awhile, and get acquainted. He seemed pleased, but apologized for his appearance. He was assured it was not his dress, but Mr. Foster I wanted to see. I judged him to be about forty-five years of age, but the lines of care upon his face, and the stamp of disease, gave him that appearance. (He was actually only thirty-seven.) We had a long conversation.
When this first visit was ended, Mr. Foster thanked me for my interest in him, and said it had done him a world of good to have some one to talk with. He had no one to call a friend. I asked him to let me be a friend, and perhaps in my humble way, I might be of service to him. I said if he would bring me his manuscript songs that he had not been able to write out, I would do the work for him at his dictation. He was very grateful, and from that time until he died I was permitted to be his helper.
When he brought me his rude sketches, written on wrapping paper, picked up in a grocery store, and he told me he wrote them while sitting upon a box or barrel, I knew he had no home. I asked him if he had a room, he said:
"No, I do not write much, as I have no material or conveniences." He then told me that he slept in the cellar room of a little house owned by an old couple, down in Elizabeth Street, in the "Five Points," who knew who he was, and charged him nothing. He said he was comfortable, so I suppose he had a bed.
One day Mr. Foster came to my desk with the sketch of a song entitled "When Old Friends Were Here." He remarked it might be his last song, and that would be the end of "Foster."
As he prepared to leave the store, it was growing dark, and as he appeared weaker than usual, I offered to go with him to the street. As I helped him into the stage, he said very earnestly, "You are my only friend," and as the door closed he waved his hand, and the last words I heard were "God bless you." I am sure they were his last words on earth.
The next day he did not call for his song, but the evening paper appeared with a great headline, "Stephen C. Foster, dead." "At eleven o'clock last night" (the paper stated) "a policeman heard groans, in the cellar of a house he was passing, and upon entering found a man bleeding to death, from a gash in the throat. He had evidently risen from his bed for some water, and had fallen over a broken pitcher. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital in an uncon­scious condition, and passed away at one o'clock. He was identified by a manuscript in his pocket with his name upon it. Relatives in Pennsylvania claimed the remains." Nothing more concerning his death was published.
Stephen Foster may have at one time lived in the cellar room of a house on Elizabeth Street, but Mrs. Duer is mistaken in supposing that the accident which led to his death took place there.







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