Mary represented an extraordinary period in Jeremy's
life for she was the subject of his first ever relationship with
a woman. Their affair began in 1898 when Jeremy was thirty and lately
encouraged, by events referenced in his
journals, into forming a first amorous association. He fixed
upon Mary Fortinbras, the daughter of Charles Fortinbras, a Protestant
sock manufacturer from Hartlepool.
But whilst Mr Fortinbras approved of the liaison in principal, in
actuality he proved to be the greatest obstacle to its consummation.
For so protective was he of Mary, and so insistent that no accident
should befall her, that he accompanied her everywhere, at every
hour of the day, not even leaving her side to answer a call of nature.
So it was that Jeremy found himself not in the peaceful liaison
à deux he had envisioned, but sucked into a stressful ménage
à trois. For with Mary's father always present, and he oftentimes
finding himself much bored with the young couple's halting words
of endearment in general and with Jeremy's explanations of his scientific
investigations in particular, he would suddenly intervene and tax
Jeremy for his opinion upon the latest political or economic affairs
- opinions which Jeremy, as a man of science, felt unqualified to
render and could not answer to in consequence, and the silences
would sometimes stretch unbroken for six hours together.