Ada Cambridge 1844-1926

Ada Cambridge was born in St Germans, near Kings Lynn in Norfolk and grew up in nearby Downham. She was educated by a governess, which she found of little value and spent a few months at a boarding school but maintained she learned most from an unmarried aunt and her own studies. In 1870 she married the Reverend George Cross, a curate committed to colonial services and moved with him to Australia soon afterwards.

Over the next thirty years her husband was posted to several different locations in Victoria and she played the role of the hardworking wife of a country clergyman, writing during her snatched leisure hours to supplement the family income. She had five children, losing two of them to childhood illnesses and a son in his early twenties. Her health was not always good after having had a miscarriage and being seriously injured in a carriage accident in the 1870’s. In 1913 she returned with her husband to England, he dying in Brighton in 1917. Soon afterwards she returned to Australia where she died in 1926.

A devout Christian, she had already written hymns in the mid 1860’s prior to her marriage but between 1870 and 1914 she wrote over twenty novels, including A Marked Man (1890) which established her reputation as a writer. She published two collections of short stories and three volumes of poetry, the best of which was her last, The Hand in the Dark and Other Poems (1913). She also wrote two autobiographies, Thirty Years in Australia (1903) and The Retrospect (1912), a collection of childhood reminiscences. Her novels are an interesting portrayal of colonial society and the manners and conventions of a class of English Australians at the end of the nineteenth Century.

Her poems, which are numerous and cover a wide range of subjects, are characterised by physical, spiritual and moral integrity and are full of compassion for human frailty. Good examples of this are Fallen, Honour and A Street Riot. She also wrote several poems about her rural surroundings, including Nightfall in the Fens and On Australian Hills.

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