Sample G32 from Finis Farr, Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961. Pp. 182-188. A part of the XML version of the Brown CorpusG32

Copyright 1961 Finis Farr. Used by permission of Charles Scribner's

Finis Farr, Frank Lloyd Wright. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961. Pp. 182-188.

Typographical Error: harrassment [1510]

Header auto-generated for TEI version

This time he was making no mistake . Olgivanna -- in her country the nickname was a respectful form of address -- was not only attractive but shrewd , durable , sensible , and smart . No wonder Wright was enchanted -- no two better suited people ever met . Almost from that day , until his death , Olgivanna was to stay at his side ; ; but the years that immediately followed were to be extraordinarily trying , both for Wright and his Montenegrin lady .

It must be granted that the flouting of convention , no matter how well intentioned one may be , is sure to lead to trouble , or at least to the discomfort that goes with social disapproval . Even so , many of the things that happened to Wright and Olgivanna seem inordinately severe . Their afflictions centered on one maddening difficulty : Miriam held up the divorce proceedings that she herself had asked for . Reporters began to trail Miriam everywhere , and to encourage her to make appalling statements about Wright and his doings . Flocks of writs , attachments , and unpleasant legal papers of every sort began to fly through the air . The distracted Miriam would agree to a settlement through her legal representative , then change her mind and make another attack on Wright as a person . At last her lawyer , Arthur D. Cloud , gave up the case because she turned down three successive settlements he arranged . Cloud made an interesting statement in parting from his client : `` I wanted to be a lawyer , and Mrs. Wright wanted me to be an avenging angel . So I got out . Mrs. Wright is without funds . The first thing to do is get her some money by a temporary but definite adjustment pending a final disposition of the case . But every time I suggested this to her , Mrs. Wright turned it down and demanded that I go out and punish Mr. Wright . I am an attorney , not an instrument of vengeance '' . Miriam Noel disregarded the free advice of her departing counselor , and appointed a heavy-faced young man named Harold Jackson to take his place .

There were three years of this strange warfare ; ; and during the unhappy time , Miriam often would charge that Wright and Olgivanna were misdemeanants against the public order of Wisconsin . Yet somehow , when officers were prodded into visiting Taliesin to execute the warrants , they would find neither Wright nor Olgivanna at home . This showed that common sense had not died out at the county and village level -- though why the unhappy and obviously unbalanced woman was not restrained remains a puzzle . The misery of Miriam's bitterness can be felt today by anyone who studies the case -- it was hopeless , agonizing , and destructive , with Miriam herself bearing the heaviest burden of shame and pain .

To get an idea of the embarrassment and chagrin that was heaped upon Wright and Olgivanna , we should bear in mind that the raids were sometimes led by Miriam in person . One of the most distressing of these scenes occurred at Spring Green toward the end of the open warfare , on a beautiful day in June . At this time Miriam Noel appeared , urging on Constable Henry Pengally , whose name showed him to be a descendant of the Welsh settlers in the neighborhood . A troop of reporters brought up the rear . Miriam was stopped at the Taliesin gate , and William Weston , now the estate foreman , came out to parley . He said that Mr. Wright was not in , and so could not be arrested on something called a peace warrant that Miriam was waving in the air . Miriam now ordered Pengally to break down the gate , but he said he really couldn't go that far . At this point Mrs. Frances Cupply , one of Wright's handsome daughters by his first wife , came from the house and tried to calm Miriam as she tore down a no visitors sign and smashed the glass pane on another sign with a rock .

Miriam Noel Wright said , `` Here I am at my own home , locked out so I must stand in the road '' ! ! Then she rounded on Weston and cried , `` You always did Wright's dirty work ! ! When I take over Taliesin , the first thing I'll do is fire you '' .

`` Madame Noel , I think you had better go '' , said Mrs. Cupply .

`` And I think you had better leave '' , replied Miriam . Turning to the reporters , she asked , `` Did you hear her ? ? ' I think you had better leave ' ! ! And this is my own home '' . In the silence that followed , Miriam walked close to Mrs. Cupply , who drew back a step on her side of the gate . Then , with staring eyes and lips drawn thin , Miriam said to the young woman , `` You are ugly -- uglier than you used to be , and you were always very ugly . You are even uglier than Mr. Wright '' .

The animosity expressed by such a scene had the penetrating quality of a natural force ; ; and it gave Miriam Noel a fund of energy like that of a person inspired to complete some great and universal work of art . As if to make certain that Wright would be unable to pay any settlement at all , Miriam wrote to prospective clients denouncing him ; ; she also went to Washington and appealed to Senator George William Norris of Nebraska , the Fighting Liberal , from whose office a sympathetic but cautious harrumphing was heard . Then , after overtures to accept a settlement and go through with a divorce , Miriam gave a ghastly echo of Mrs. Micawber by suddenly stating , `` I will never leave Mr. Wright '' .

Under this kind of pressure , it is not surprising that Wright would make sweeping statements to the newspapers . Miriam had not yet goaded him into mentioning her directly , but one can feel the generalized anger in Wright's remarks to reporters when he was asked , one morning on arrival in Chicago , what he thought of the city as a whole . First , Wright said , he was choked by the smoke , which fortunately kept him from seeing the dreadful town . But surely Michigan Avenue was handsome ? ? `` That isn't a boulevard , it's a racetrack '' ! ! Cried Wright , showing that automobiles were considered to be a danger as early as the 1920's . `` This is a horrible way to live '' , Wright went on . `` You are being strangled by traffic '' . He was then asked for a solution of the difficulty , and began to talk trenchant sense , though private anguish showed through in the vehemence of his manner . `` Take a gigantic knife and sweep it over the Loop '' , Wright said . `` Cut off every building at the seventh floor . Spread everything out . You don't need concentration . If you cut down these horrible buildings you'll have no more traffic jams . You'll have trees again . You'll have some joy in the life of this city . After all , that's the job of the architect -- to give the world a little joy '' .

Little enough joy was afforded Wright in the spring of 1925 , when another destructive fire broke out at Taliesin . The first news stories had it that this blaze was started by a bolt of lightning , as though Miriam could call down fire from heaven like a prophet of the Old Testament . A storm did take place that night , and fortunately enough , it included a cloudburst that helped put out the flames . Later accounts blamed defective wiring for starting the fire ; ; at any rate , heat grew so intense in the main part of the house that it melted the window panes , and fused the K'ang-si pottery to cinders . Wright set his loss at $200,000 , a figure perhaps justified by the unique character of the house that had been ruined , and the faultless taste that had gone into the selection of the prints and other things that were destroyed . In spite of the disaster , Wright completed during this period plans for the Lake Tahoe resort , in which he suggested the shapes of American Indian tepees -- a project of great and appropriate charm , that came to nothing . Amid a shortage of profitable work , the memory of Albert Johnson's $20,000 stood out in lonely grandeur -- the money had quickly melted away . A series of conferences with friends and bankers began about this time ; ; and the question before these meetings was , here is a man of international reputation and proved earning power ; ; how can he be financed so that he can find the work he ought to do ? ? While this was under consideration , dauntless as ever Wright set about the building of Taliesin 3 .

As he made plans for the new Taliesin , Wright also got on paper his conception of a cathedral of steel and glass to house a congregation of all faiths , and the idea for a planetarium with a sloping ramp . Years were to pass before these plans came off the paper , and Wright was justified in thinking , as the projects failed , that much of what he had to show his country and the world would never be seen except by visitors to Taliesin . And now there was some question as to his continued residence there . Billy Koch , who had once worked for Wright as a chauffeur , gave a deposition for Miriam's use that he had seen Olgivanna living at Taliesin . This might put Wright in such a bad light before a court that Miriam would be awarded Taliesin ; ; nor was she moved by a letter from Wright pointing out that if he was not `` compelled to spend money on useless lawyer's bills , useless hotel bills , and useless doctor's bills '' , he could more quickly provide Miriam with a suitable home either in Los Angeles or Paris , as she preferred . Miriam sniffed at this , and complained that Wright had said unkind things about her to reporters . His reply was , `` Everything that has been printed derogatory to you , purporting to have come from me , was a betrayal , and nothing yet has been printed which I have sanctioned '' . What irritated Miriam was that Wright had told the papers about a reasonable offer he had made , which he considered she would accept `` when she tires of publicity '' . From her California headquarters , Miriam fired back , `` I shall never divorce Mr. Wright , to permit him to marry Olga Milanoff '' .

Then Miriam varied the senseless psychological warfare by suddenly withdrawing a suit for separate maintenance that had been pending , and asking for divorce on the grounds of cruelty , with the understanding that Wright would not contest it . The Bank of Wisconsin sent a representative to the judge's chambers in Madison to give information on Wright's ability to meet the terms . He said that the architect might reasonably be expected to carry his financial burdens if all harrassment could be brought to an end , and that the bank would accept a mortgage on Taliesin to help bring this about . Miriam said that she must be assured that `` that other woman , Olga , will not be in luxury while I am scraping along '' . This exhausted Wright's patience , and in consequence he talked freely to reporters in a Madison hotel suite . `` Volstead laws , speed laws , divorce laws '' , he said , `` as they now stand , demoralize the individual , make liars and law breakers of us in one way or another , and tend to make our experiment in democracy absurd . If Mrs. Wright doesn't accept the terms in the morning , I'll go either to Tokyo or to Holland , to do what I can . I realize , in taking this stand , just what it means to me and mine '' . Here Wright gave a slight sigh of weariness , and continued , `` It means more long years lived across the social grain of the life of our people , making shift to live in the face of popular disrespect and misunderstanding as I best can for myself and those dependent upon me '' . Next day , word came that Miriam was not going through with the divorce ; ; but Wright stayed in the United States . His mentioning of Japan and Holland had been merely the expression of wishful thinking . No matter what troubles might betide him , this most American of artists knew in his heart he could not function properly outside his native land .

In a few weeks Miriam made another sortie at Taliesin , but was repulsed at the locked and guarded gates .