Thursday, March 10, 2016

Edmond, Oscar, Laura ~ 2

Dream of Laura
The star witness in the 1907 divorce trial of Professor and Mrs. Oscar Lovell Triggs turned out to be an anarchist named Herman Kuehn. He had arrived early for a lecture at the Spencer-Whitman Institute on Calumet Avenue in Chicago. The center, named for Herbert Spencer and Walt Whitman, evidently doubled as a free love colony. 

Upon bounding up the steps to the professor’s office, Kuehn found Triggs – yes, this really was the headline – “in flagrante delictu.” 

“He does not regard the institution of marriage in any wise [sic] as a solemn or sacred institution or one conducive to the best interest of morals or the progress of the human race,” Kuehn told the court. It’s interesting that he sold out the professor on the matter of marriage. 

For later Kuehn became editor and publisher of a journal called Prospectus: Instead of a Magazine that proclaimed itself “calculated to jar the sensibilities and ruffle the temper of victims of ‘fixed’ opinions.”

Dismissed from the University of Chicago and disgraced by the trial, Triggs did have his defenders. Many insisted that his freedom of speech had been violated. 

“The worst that can be said is that he is a little touched with the mild socialism of William Morris and [German educator] Froebel,” the St. Louis Mirror editorialized.

Professor Triggs in 1904; photo
appeared in The Literary Digest

In September 1905, Triggs traveled to New York City where he attended a meeting at Peck’s Restaurant on lower Fulton Street (a go-to place for big thinkers on small budgets). 

With Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and others, he established the League for Industrial Democracy and issued a call to study Socialism. The group stated:

The recent remarkable increase in the Socialist vote of America should serve as an indication to the educated men and women in the country that Socialism is a thing concerning which it is no longer wise to be indifferent.

Then Triggs married a former student, Ada Beall Cox. They moved to a ranch in Turlock, California, to raise animals and grow fruits and vegetables. The plan was to continue to write and publish.

Meanwhile in Paris, Laura had married a physician and cared for her young son, Edmond. She became a member of the Society of French Literary Critics and published articles under the pseudonym Julia Gagey-McAdoo. 

And she got to know Anatole France, an esteemed Parisian essayist, novelist, and historian who stood with Zola during the Dreyfus Affair and ultimately won a Nobel Prize.  

In the springtime of 1911, the two began a love affair replete with ecstatically passionate correspondence. Laura spoke and wrote French fluently. But the relationship did not last the year. In December, “la belle Floridienne,” as he called her, wrote to her lover:

I find myself sombering in a cruel despair which is slowly destroying my normal capacity for hope and a sense of inner harmony. You made me believe that I helped you live life and you would be equally sad to lose me. You told me yesterday that the wife of your youth (of which the memory is sacred) did not see you every day as I do. But similarly, I see myself in a societal position that recognizes my rank and my talents, (and I do not affect a false modesty there) in which you could at least visit, in which I could have you as a guest and see you at dinner parties and the like. I would adapt happily to this situation. What are words? You told me to not be afraid of them. The essential is to feel complete with another person. Love of this kind has no name or etiquette. It gives and receives all, it’s an endless circle and this is how I love you…*

The next day Laura took an overdose of barbital and died. She is buried in the ossuary at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Young Edmond returned to the United States to live with his aunt and uncle in New York City.  

In California, Oscar and Ada Beall Triggs became the parents of three children. They also won an award for their Shetland pony at the Sonoma-Marin Agricultural Fair in 1914.

Further down the road, the couple moved to the Tingley Colony in Point Loma, a Utopian community founded by an autocratic Theosophist named Katherine Tingley. After World War I, they lived in Seattle and then Manitoba, where Oscar died in 1930.

Ada lived for another 30 years and had all kinds of adventures. She may have been the happiest of the lot.

*Translation by Mark Olmsted.


See also March 2 + April 6 + June 15, 2016 posts.

1 comment:

  1. Oscar Lovell Triggs was my grandfather. I am the daughter of his youngest son, Dudley. He died more than twenty years before I was born. What is written here, is a good summary of what I have learned over the years. The middle name Lovell is bestowed on all of the descendants of Oscar and Ada. My nephew just had a baby boy, who is now burdened with the naming tradition. My grandmother, Ada Beall Cox, wrote under the name Lovell Beall Triggs.


The Little Time Traveler

  Last fall, my adorable grandson, halfway between two and three years, was finally tall enough to look at the family pictures arranged on a...