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Eliza Parsons

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Eliza Parsons

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Full Name: Eliza Parsons
Died: February 5, 1811
Leytonstone, Essex, England
Occupation: Writer
Nationality: British


Eliza Parsons (1739 - 5 February 1811) was an English Gothic novelist.

The life of Eliza Parsons has been subject to much speculation, but most researchers agree she was born in 1739; her baptismal certificate was dated 4 April 1739. Born in Plymouth, Devon, as the only daughter of John Phelp, a wine merchant, and his wife Roberta Phelp, she spent her childhood in a prosperous household and became well-educated for a young woman in the 18th century. At about 21 years old, Eliza married a turpentine distiller, James Parsons, from the nearby town of Stonehouse, on 24 March 1760. Together they had three sons and five daughters. About 1778-79, the family moved to a suburb in London, when Parsons's turpentine business saw a decline as an indirect result of the American War of Independence. Mr Parsons invested his remaining money in reviving his dwindling turpentine trade, and for about three years, the family's standard of living returned to the pre-American Revolution level. In 1782, however, a devastating fire broke out in one of the warehouses, spread quickly, and destroyed everything Mr Parsons owned. He then took a position in the Lord Chamberlain's office.

Several months before the warehouse fire, the Parsons' eldest son had died in Jamaica, immediately after his promotion to captain of the Royal Marines. Domestic bereavement coupled with the reverses in his business fortunes compounded with deteriorating health and he suffered a paralysing stroke. He lived for three more years until he suffered a second, fatal stroke in 1797. Eliza's second oldest son also died in the military. In 1803, one of her daughters died, and in 1804 so did her youngest son.

With a family needing to be provided for, Eliza began to write novels to support them. Over a career spanning from 1790 to 1807, she wrote 19 novels and one play, contained in a total of 60 volumes. Nonetheless, she was perpetually short of money. Between 1793 and 1803 she received 45 guineas from the Royal Literary Fund, and also worked at the Royal Wardrobe. She died on 5 February 1811 at the age of 72 in Leytonstone in Essex, survived by four married daughters.

Works in the WWEnd Database

 Northanger Horrid

 1. (1793)
 3. (1796)


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