Mirinda was feeling a lot better today. As it was a book group day, that’s a good thing. She wouldn’t have enjoyed a drive out to Chawton still in the grips of the lurgy.
This month’s book was Original letters from India by Eliza Fay, an amazing woman if ever there was one. Born in either 1755 or 1756, she travelled extensively throughout her life before, finally, dying in Calcutta aged 60.
She married Anthony Fay, a barrister, back in 1772 and he, for reasons buried deep in the mists of time, decided to practice law in Calcutta. So they set out for deepest, darkest India.
The marriage didn’t work out and, after Anthony fathered an illegitimate child, they separated and he returned to London, where he died in 1815. Eliza, however, fell in love with the sub-continent and returned a number of times, evidently trying to make a millinery success there. She never quite managed it.
She was declared bankrupt a number of times and, eventually, some of her letters home to her sister were published in order to pay off her debtors at her death.
According to Mirinda, her letters are pretty amazing and E.M. Forster thought so too as he published them in 1925 with great scholarly abandon.
While her writing style is highly readable and her descriptions of life at the time are marvellous, what amazes me most is her willingness to travel from relative calm and pleasant England to India, at a time when the trip was definitely hazardous to health and well being. And not all by ship. There was also some pretty hairy desert stretches where, no doubt, she was part of a camel train.
A truly intrepid woman, who should not be forgotten.