Biography of Ada Cambridge
Ada Cambridge, later known as Ada Cross, was an English-born Australian writer.
Overall she wrote more than twenty-five works of fiction, three volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works. Many of her novels were serialised in Australian newspapers, and were never published in book form.
While she was known to friends and family by her married name, Ada Cross, she was known to her newspaper readers as A.C. Later in her career she reverted to her maiden name, Ada Cambridge, and it is thus by this name that she is known.
Ada was born at St Germans, Norfolk, the second child of Thomasine and Henry Cambridge, a gentleman farmer. She was educated by governesses, an experience she abhorred. She wrote in a book of reminiscences: "I can truthfully affirm that I never learned anything which would now be considered worth learning until I had done with them all and started foraging for myself. I did have a few months of boarding-school at the end, and a very good school for its day it was, but it left no lasting impression on my mind." (The Retrospect, chap. IV). It was, in fact, an unmarried aunt who most contributed to her intellectual development.
On 25 April 1870 she was married to the Rev. George Frederick Cross and a few weeks later sailed for Australia. She arrived in Melbourne in August and was surprised to find it a well established city. Her husband was sent to Wangaratta, then to Yackandandah (1872), Ballan (1874), Coleraine (1877), Bendigo (1884) and Beechworth (1885), where they remained until 1893. Her Thirty Years in Australia (1903) describes their experiences in these parishes. She experienced her share of tragedy, including the loss of children to whooping cough and scarlet fever.
Cross at first was the typical hard-working wife of a country clergyman, taking part in all the activities of the parish and incidentally making her own children's clothes. Her health, however, broke down, for a number of reasons including a near-fatal miscarriage and a serious carriage accident, and her activities had to be reduced, but she continued to write.
In 1893 Cross and her husband moved to their last parish, Williamstown, near Melbourne, and remained there until 1909. Her husband went on the retired clergy list at the end of 1909 with permission to operate in the diocese until 1912. In 1913 they both returned to England, where they stayed until his death on 27 February 1917. Ada returned to Australia later that year, and died in Melbourne on 19 July 1926. She was survived by a daughter and a son, Dr K. Stuart Cross.
A street in the Canberra suburb of Cook is named in her honour.
While Cambridge began writing in the 1870s to make money to help support her children, her formal published career spans from 1865 with Hymns on the Litany and The Two Surplices, to 1922 with an article 'Nightfall' in Atlantic Monthly. According to Barton, her early works 'contain the seeds of her lifelong insistence on and pursuit of physical, spiritual and moral integrity as well as the interweaving of poetry and prose which was to typify her writing career.Cato writes that 'some of her ideas were considered daring and even a little improper for a clergyman's wife. She touches on extramarital affairs and the physical bondage of wives'.
In 1875 her first novel Up the Murray appeared in the Australasian but was not published separately, and it was not until 1890 with the publication of A Marked Man that her fame as a writer was established.However, despite regular good reviews, there were many who discounted her because she did not write in the literary tradition of the time, one that was largely non-urban and masculine, that focused on survival against the harsh environment.
She was first president of the Women Writers Club and honorary life-member of the Lyceum Club of Melbourne, and had many friends in the literary world including Grace 'Jennings' Carmicheal, Rolf Boldrewood , Ethel Turner and George Robertson.
Ada Cambridge's Works:
Hymns on the Litany (1865)
Hymns on the Holy Communion (1866)
The Manor House: and Other Poems (1875)
My Guardian (Novel, 1877)
In Two Years' Time (Novel, 1879)
A Mere Chance (Novel, 1882)
Unspoken Thoughts (Novel, 1887)
A Woman's Friendship (Serialised in the Age, 1889; first published in book form in 1988)
A Marked Man (Novel, 1890)
The Three Miss Kings (Novel, 1891)
Not All in Vain (Novel, 1892)
A Little Minx (Novel, 1893)
A Marriage Ceremony (Novel, 1894),
Fidelis (Novel, 1895)
A Humble Enterprise (Novel, 1896),
At Midnight: and Other Stories (1897)
Materfamilias (Novel, 1898),
Path and Goal (Novel, 1900)
The Devastators (Novel, 1901)
Thirty Years in Australia (Memoir, 1903)
Sisters (Novel, 1904)
A Platonic Friendship (Novel, 1905)
A Happy Marriage (Novel, 1906)
The Eternal Feminine (Novel, 1907)
The Retrospect (Memoir, 1912)
The Hand in the Dark: and Other Poems (1913)
The Making of Rachel Rowe (Novel, 1914)
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Ada Cambridge Poems
For want of bread to eat and clothes to wear — Because work failed and streets were deep in snow,
When the investing darkness growls, And deep reverberates to deep; When keyhole whines and chimney howls, And all the roofs and windows weep;
Good-bye! -- 'tis like a churchyard bell -- good-bye! Poor weeping eyes! Poor head, bowed down with woe! Kiss me again, dear love, before you go. Ah, me, how fast the precious moments fly!
A Wife's Protest
1. Like a white snowdrop in the spring From child to girl I grew,
The red-rose flush fades slowly in the west. The golden water, basking in the light, Pales to clear amber and to silver white.
What of the Night?
To you, who look below, Where little candles glow -- Who listen in a narrow street, Confused with noise of passing feet --
And is the great cause lost beyond recall? Have all the hopes of ages come to naught? Is life no more with noble meaning fraught? Is life but death, and love its funeral pall?
An Old Maid's Lament
1. Every wild she- bird has nest and mate in the warm April weather, But a captive woman, made for love — nor nest, nor mate
A Story at Dusk
An evening all aglow with summer light And autumn colour—fairest of the year.
The Dawn of God's Sabbath
The dawn of God’s dear Sabbath Breaks o’er the earth again, As some sweet summer morning After a night of pain;
1. I know now why the world was sad, With so much good to make it glad;
Spirit and Breath of Life, whate'er Thy name! Bear with Thy creature, Man, That makes his dwelling-place a blot of shame Upon the Ordered Plan.
The Virgin Martyr
Every wild she-bird has nest and mate in the warm April weather, But a captive woman, made for love -- no mate, no nest has she. In the spring of young desire, young men and maids are wed together, And the happy mothers flaunt their bliss for all the world to see:
On Australian Hills
Earth, outward tuning on her path in space This pensive southern face, Swathing its smile and shine In that soft veil that day and darkness twine,
And is the great cause lost beyond recall?
Have all the hopes of ages come to naught?
Is life no more with noble meaning fraught?
Is life but death, and love its funeral pall?
Maybe. And still on bended knees I fall,
Filled with a faith no preacher ever taught.
O God -- MY God -- by no false prophet wrought --
I believe still, in despite of it all!