As the biographer of British author and teacher, Eliza Fenwick, I’ve been on the hunt for Eliza for several years, and although I have assembled many of the pieces that make up her story as she moved from England to Barbados, New York, and eventually to Upper Canada, there are still pieces missing. And there is more to tell.
A fixture of literary London–between about 1788 to 1814, Eliza knew Coleridge, Charles Lamb and Dorothy Wordsworth among others, and attended the birth of Mary (later Shelley) and the death of Eliza’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft. Secrecy, Eliza Fenwick’s only (as far as is known) novel was published in 1795 though she also published several original, innovative stories for children in the opening decade of the 19th century.
Some of the pieces we’re looking for we know existed: a picture of Eliza survived until the late 19 th century. And we know that there were two copies of the account she made of Bussa’s Rebellion in Barbados in 1816. We suspect that there are other pieces we may not know about, but that may have been tucked into an attic or a cupboard or a library. There may be information about her childhood as the daughter of one of Wesley’s original itinerant preachers in England. Or there may be information about her relationships with other British literary women in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Or maybe you have a bead-work artifact made by a girl at her school in Niagara in the 1830s.
If Eliza published anything in Barbados or in North America, I’ve not been able to find evidence. Hers is a fascinating story: a story of success and failure, independence, perseverance and undying optimism.
Hunting for Mrs. Fenwick, (eds). Lissa Paul and Murray Wilcox. http://elizafenwick.com/.