Eliza Phelp was the only daughter of a middle-class merchant family in Plymouth. In 1760, she married James Parsons, a turpentine dealer with whom she had eight children. The family moved to a London suburb when her husband's business was affected by the American War of Independence. After her husband's death, Eliza Parsons turned to writing Gothic novels to support herself and her family. She produced about 20 multi-volume novels between 1790 and 1810, and also worked at the Royal Wardrobe. She was briefly imprisoned for debt in 1803. She was popular with the public though receiving only faint praise from literary critics. Eliza Parsons was the only novelist with two books in Jane Austen's library (which can be viewed on LibraryThing).