Eliza Fenwick

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Eliza Fenwick (1 February 1766 – 8 December 1840) was an English author whose works include, Secresy; or The Ruin on the Rock (1795), as well as several children's books. Born in Cornwall, she married an alcoholic and had two children with him. She eventually left him to live with her children in Barbados, where she ran a school with her daughter.


Eliza Jago was born on 1 February 1766 at Pelynt, Cornwall. Her parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Jago, and she was baptized Elizabeth on 25 June 1766. She married John Fenwick, an alcoholic who developed significant debts,[1] in the 1780s and went on two have two children with him, Eliza and Orlando. She took up roles including governessing to make ends meet, eventually leaving Fenwick to move to Ireland to be a governess in 1807.[2]

By this time, Fenwick's daughter had moved to the West Indies to be an actor and had married a man by the name of Rutherford, having four children. Fenwick and her son, Orlando, joined her daughter in Barbados in 1814, though Orlando died of yellow fever in 1816. In 1819, Fenwick's son-in-law left the family, leaving the mother and daughter to look after the four children. The pair ran a secondary school, which provided income and ensured the education of the children. Fenwick's daughter died in 1828, leaving her to raise the children alone.[1]


Throughout her life Fenwick corresponded with her friends, including Mary Hays, Thomas Holcroft, William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Turner Smith, and Charles and Mary Lamb, much of which survives. Her epistolary novel Secresy; or The Ruin on the Rock was published "By a Woman" in 1795. Her subsequent works were written for children, sometimes under the pseudonym Revd David Blair.[2]


  1. ^ a b O'Callaghan, Evelyn (2004). "Black and white women". Women Writing the West Indies, 1804-1939: 'A Hot Place, Belonging To Us'. Routledge. p. 44. ISBN 9781134440962. 
  2. ^ a b Brooke, Marilyn L. (2004). "Fenwick [née Jago], Eliza [pseud. Revd David Blair] (1766?–1840), writer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37413.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

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