Ada Cambridge Biography

Ada Cambridge was a prolific English-born Australian writer. Know more about the childhood and life of this great literary personality in this brief biography.

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Australian-English writer
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Born in:
St Germans
Henry Cambridge
Rev. George Frederick Cross
Dr K. Stuart Cross
Died on:
July 19, 1926
place of death:

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Ada Cambridge was a prolific and gifted author. Reading her works, one can get terrific insights into the sensibilities and styles of the then English colonial society. Most of her novels have conventional romantic subtleties and paint vivid pictures of Toorak mansions or pastoral homesteads as the backdrops of her story settings. Her central characters were usually newly arrived English gentlemen or ladies on the shores of uncharted British colonies. The storyline followed their trials and trepidations, while searching for love and life partner. Throughout her career, her novels continued to explore the basis of marital choice and this quest was often combined with several lesser written about topics of the time like exile, sexual passion and the substitutes of organized religion. She released her first formal publication called ‘Hymns on the Litany’ and went on to publish many masterpieces till ‘Nightfall’, which was her final article. During her lifetime she amassed a huge body of interesting and intriguing literal work, which included around 21 novels, three compilations of poetry, and two in depth autobiographies. Besides these, she wrote several works for journals, such as the Atlantic Monthly and the Australian Ladies' Annual. Today, many of her writings are considered unconventional and radical, as they seem to question the then prevalent social norms.

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Ada Cambridge
Childhood & Early Life
  • Ada Cambridge was the second child of gentleman farmer, named Henry Cambridge and his wife Thomasine, a doctor’s daughter.
  • She received her early educational training under numerous governesses, which she hardly cherished.
  • As a child, she was an avid reader and a firm Anglicanism. Her childhood experiences inspired many of her works.
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  • Her writing career began in late teens, with ‘Hymns on the Litany’ being the first formal publication in 1865. This was followed by another collection of poems titled ‘Two Surplices’.
  • Although her first novel, ‘Up the Murray’ was published in 1875, Cambridge received recognition as a writer only after the publication of ‘A Marked Man’ in 1890.
  • She received much recognition in England and Australia after publishing ‘The Three Miss Kings’ in 1891.
  • Her most important works include ‘Thirty Years in Australia’, published in 1903 and ‘The Retrospect’, published in 1912, among others.
  • She established herself as a great poet with her works ‘Echoes’ and ‘The Hand in the Dark’ in 1869 and 1913, respectively.
  • Apart from being an acclaimed writer and poet, she was the first president of the Women Writers’ Club and also became an honorary life-member of the Lyceum Club of Melbourne.
Major Works - Novels
  • Her famous novel ‘Thirty Years in Australia’ (1903) was inspired from her experience and time spent in Australia. ‘The Retrospect’ (1912), another one of Cambridge’s unique works, was influenced by her visit to England in 1908.
  • Some of her other significant novels were: ‘A Marked Man’ (1890)—in this novel Richard Delavel, her hero gets saved from horrendous marital choices, and ‘Three Miss Kings’ (1891), its plot revolves around three sisters looking for earnest husbands.
Prominent Poetic Works
  • She was also praised for her memorable poems, which appeared in a collection named, ‘The Hand in the Dark’ (1913), which established her as brilliant poet.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • She married Rev. George Frederick Cross on April 25, 1870 and moved to Australia, where she spent a major part of her life.
  • Her first and second child passed away in 1874 and 1875, because of whooping cough and scarlet fever, respectively.
  • In her earlier days, Cambridge was always occupied with community work (parish activities) as she was the wife of a clergyman.
  • In 1877, she was struck by a carriage accident which caused her a back injury and rendered her unable to contribute to parish services.
  • She returned to England in 1913, where she lived until her husband’s death on February 27, 1917. She then moved back to Australia later that year, where she spent the rest of her life writing novels and poems.
  • She passed away due to heart failure at the age of 81. She left behind a daughter and a son, Dr K. Stuart Cross.
  • In the honor of this great writer, the Ada Cambridge Prize was introduced in 2005 and it is awarded to local writers with the best biographical stories.
  • A street in the suburb of Canberra, Cook, is named after her.
  • She attributed most of her intellectual growth as child to an unmarried aunt of hers.
  • In 1873, after marriage, she revived her writing career to create a second source of income for the faltering family finances.
  • In newspapers her works were published under the initials A.C. and in later years of her career she began to use her maiden name.
  • Several of her novels never got published as single compilations but were printed in serialized format in various Australian newspapers.

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- Ada Cambridge Biography
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Last Updated
- October 05, 2017

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