Eliza Fay (1756-1816) is thought to have been born in Blackheath, South London. Very little is known for certain about her background, even her maiden name is a mystery. Her father may have been a sailor, and it is possible that she trained as a dressmaker in France. Her recorded life begins with her marriage to the Irish lawyer Anthony Fay when she was in her early twenties. Not long after, the pair embarked on their voyage to India. The haphazard nature of the journey has led to speculation that Anthony was sent to Calcutta to prepare for the eventual impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey, chief justice of Bengal. The couple separated only a few years after settling in Calcutta, and Mrs. Fay returned to England. Striking out on her own, she made several more trips to India in conjunction with a variety of ruinous business schemes, including one that brought her to New York. She died at the age of sixty, penniless, in Calcutta.
It took Eliza Fay over a year to travel from London to Calcutta at the end of the eighteenth century. The letters she wrote along the way are unguarded and lively and provide an unparalleled view of the adventure that was travel in days past.