Chronicles of Stephen Foster's Family
UNIV. OF PITTSBURGH BY $5.00
BEAUTIFULLY bound and boxed, with end papers appealing to both the eye and the heart, satisfactorily “illustrated from contemporary paintings, photographs and prints,” artistically and carefully printed, the two volumes of these Chronicles, compiled by Stephen Foster’s niece, the daughter of his favorite brother Morrison, are outwardly as joyous as a Foster song.
Inwardly, they are factual, objective, detailed, repetitious, dealing with a limited range of events and unconcerned with psychological causes and consequences. The author “does not presume to call this book a literary work. It is simply a compilation of notes and letters and personal recollections that we hope will bring a message of kinship to many admirers of Stephen Foster, and also to members of the Foster clan.”
This it does in substantial and authoritative fashion. In addition, the unadorned statements of fact — the numerous letters revealing intimate details of daily living and recording the travels and political activities of members of the family — sketch vividly the economic and social life “of an average Pennsylvania family in the days following the Revolution and in the nineteenth century,” and often create definite, individualized pictures of interesting personalities.
The book is valuable mainly for its subject matter. It collects many loose ends of Foster material and binds them between four convenient covers. It refutes several erroneous conceptions about Stephen and his wife Jane. It answers many questions about Stephen’s life and his music, especially during his last years in New York. It adds many details. Moreover, it shows Stephen Foster’s proportionate relationship to his family and friends; he is a member of a large group, not the chief actor holding the center of the stage.