In the seesawing fortunes of not only Europe, battle-fronts were in progress in the wider world. Gerard found it difficult trying to separate his business from the fortunes of war when so many of his clients were either military, naval, or political personnel. Britain's fortunes and misfortunes on the battlefield had a marked effect on the salon's business.
Relief was found one day, however, when George Wagstaff arrived with a new client for Gerard.
"My friend Samuel," George introduced him.
George had presented Mary with a first edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poetic works, and whilst Gerard had not had time to read all, Mary had directed him, in particular, to an epic poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".
And here was the man himself, not only a celebrated poet but philosopher and prolific writer of essays and novelettes. Over the next several months Gerard found him a wealth of information on what was happening in literary circles.
"Lord Byron tells me he has been awarded a seat in the House of Lords," Gerard told Coleridge one day in his cutting-room, yet was surprisingly and quite demonstrably put on the back foot...
"I care not to discuss that fellow, sir. Can we concentrate on the measurements?"
"And of course I daren't ask him the reason for his pique," Gerard told Mary and Martha at dinner that night. Martha now ate with them several nights a week, Mary-Jane joining them on those occasions. By agreement, they tried not to drastically change the tone or course of their conversations because of Mary-Jane's presence.
"If she wishes to be part of our company, she must be prepared to accept whatever and however we choose to share our information," Gerard had insisted.
Martha agreed. "I believe it behove on every child to accept the way parents conduct domestic affairs. To observe is a prime dexterity in a child's appreciation of life, and to observe reasoned debate is surely opportunity to learn how there is more than one side to any situation."
Gerard raised his glass of mulberry wine and nodded in appreciation.
Mary smiled. And Mary-Jane, knowing they were talking about her, yet not, maybe, conscious of the portent, nevertheless quickly reached for her glass of lemonade and joined the salute.
Martha continued, but not on Mary-Jane. "Lord Byron is not only one of the greatest poets of the score currently mesmerising Britons with their verses, but one of the most controversial. At Cambridge, I read, he shocked the academic world by writing romantic sonnets and other verses on love--the shock being that not all were on men's love of women."
Mary looked aghast, with a quick glance towards Mary-Jane.
Martha looked bemused. "It was his audacity that I think shocked so many, more than the actual content," Martha continued. "I would think, sir," she added looking at Gerard, "that it was that, that Mr. Coleridge had in mind."
Gerard laid his cutlery on his plate...
Mary thought, Oh, oh! Here comes a reprimand for Martha...
"Lord Byron is currently abroad. He had me rig him for a tour of the Mediterranean. With the insecurity on the continent proper, as we know it, he is touring Greece and the Levant. He has finished at Cambridge. Many say he was asked to leave, although others claim it was the honesty of his controversial works that the library refused to accept. Personally, I have no quarrel with the content, be they observational or biographical. I must add, however, I have not yet read any of his published works. But the fact they are published, to my mind, indicates they cannot be as scandalous as some claim--even Mr Coleridge."