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Eliza Fenwick (1766–1840)

Author of Secresy; or, The Ruin on the Rock

Includes the names: Eliza Fenwick

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Eliza Fenwick was born Elizabeth Jago in Cornwall, England. Around 1788, she married John Fenwick, with whom she had two children. She separated from her husband in 1800 due to his drunkenness and debt and supported herself and her children as a governess, schoolmistress, and writer. She was a good friend of Mary Wollstonecraft -- whom she helped nurse as she lay dying -- and William Godwin, Charles and Mary Lamb, Thomas Holcroft, and Henry Crabb Robinson. She was involved in a radical literary circle in 1790s London that advocated for the rights of women, including access to education, and opposed slavery. Her epistolary novel Secresy; or The Ruin on the Rock was published anonymously in 1795. She went on to write several innovative children's books, including The Life of the Famous Dog Carlo (1804), Visits to the Juvenile Library (1805), and Rays from the Rainbow (1811). She became the manager of William Godwin's juvenile library, but in 1814, followed her daughter Eliza to Barbados, where she had found work as an actress. They later moved to the USA. In 1827, after the death of her daughter, Eliza Fenwick became the sole support for her four young grandchildren, then aged 5 to 14. Her letters to her friend and fellow author Mary Hays were edited and published in 1927 in a book entitled The Fate of the Fenwicks.
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