Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

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

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appeared again after a few days in his ragged suit and glazed cap. This cap seems to have been an outstanding feature of his appearance in these last days, as it is mentioned by several biographers.
This sorry picture of Stephen's disreputable appear-i ance is somewhat belied by the ambrotype of Stephen and George Cooper, taken in 1863, only a few months! before his death. True, his good clothes may have been assumed for that occasion only, but the picture is hardly that of a man in the last stages of alcoholism. Unfor-1 tunately the ambrotype is not a good one, and both the faces are blurred, but the likeness of Stephen is distinct enough to give the lie to those of his biographers who describe his face as that of Silenus.
Although he drank constantly, Cooper says that Stephen was never intoxicated. He was indifferent to food, often making a meal of apples or turnips from the grocery shop, peeling them with a large pocket-knife. The "rum" he drank was concocted by the barkeeper from French spirits and brown sugar, and was kept in a keg.
He wrote with great facility and without the aid of a piano. If no music-paper was handy, he would take whatever paper he could find, and, ruling the lines on it, proceed without hesitation to write. He seemed never at a loss for a melody, and the simple accompaniment caused him no trouble. These first drafts were taken out and sold to a publisher or theatre manager, practi­cally without correction. To this habit is evidently due the "brown wrapping paper" legend, as Cooper says that he would use brown wrapping paper if he couldn't find anything else.
George Cooper enlisted in the 22nd New York Regi­ment in 1862, and was at the front during a large part of this year. He was with the same regiment in 1863, serv­ing in the Gettysburg campaign, returning to New York upon the disbanding of the regiment on July 24th, 1863.

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