Ada Cambridge 1844-1926, National Library of Australia. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Ada Cambridge
Born 21 November 1844 (Template:Four digit-11-21)
St Germans, Norfolk, England
Died 19 July 1926 (Template:Four digit-07-20) (aged 81)
Melbourne, Australia
Cause of death Heart failure
Other names A.C. and Ada Cross
Occupation Novelist, poet, memoirist and journalist
Spouse Rev. George Frederick Cross
Children Five, including Dr K. Stuart Cross
Parents Henry and Thomasine Cambridge

Ada Cambridge (21 November 1844 - 19 July 1926), later known as Ada Cross, was an English-Australian poet and novelist.

Life Edit

Overview Edit

Overall she wrote more than 25 works of fiction, 3 volumes, of poetry and 2 autobiographical works.[1] 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.[2]


Youth and education Edit

She was born at St Germans, Norfolk, the second child of Thomasine and Henry Cambridge, a gentleman farmer.[3] 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.[4]

Marriage Edit

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.[5]

Cross initially 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.


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.[6] 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'.[4] Cato[1] 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.[7] However, despite regular good reviews, there were many who discounted her because she did not write in the literary tradition of the time.[8]

She was inaugural 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' Carmichael, Rolf Boldrewood, Ethel Turner, and George Robertson.[9]

Final yearsEdit

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.

Recognition Edit

A street in the Canberra suburb of Cook is named in her honor.

Ada Cambridge PrizeEdit

This prize has been offered since 2005, and is awarded for the best biographical story submitted by a local adult writer. It is announced at the annual Williamstown Literary Festival, where Ada resided for a time when her husband was the vicar of the Holy Trinity Church. The story must be of 1,000–3,000 words and there is no entry fee.[10]




  • The Two Surplices: A tale (reprinted from The Churchman's Companion). London: Joseph Masters, 1865.
  • Little Jenny. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1867.
  • The Vicar's Guest: A tale. London: Joseph Masters, 1869.
  • My Guardian: A story of the Fen Country. London: Cassell, 1878.
  • In Two Years' Time. (2 volumes), London: Richard Bentley, 1879. Volume I, Volume II.
  • A Mere Chance. (3 volumes), London: Richard Bentley, 1882. Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3
  • A Marked Man: Some episodes in his life. London: Heinemann, 1890; New York: John W. Lovell, 1890.
    • A Black Sheep: Some episodes in his life (serialized version of A Marked Man). Canberra, ACT: Australian Scholarly Editions, 2004.
  • The Three Miss Kings. Melbourne: Melville, Mullen, & Slade, 1891; London: 1891.
  • Not All In Vain. (3 volumes), London: Heinemann, 1892; Melbourne: Melville, Mullen, & Slade, 1892. Volume I, Volume II, Volume III.
  • A Little Minx: A sketch. London: Heinemann, 1893. New York: D. Appleton , 1893.
  • A Marriage Ceremony. (2 volumes), London: Hutchinson, 1894.
  • Fidelis. (3 volumes), London: Hutchinson, 1895; (1 volume), New York: D. Appleton, 1895.
  • A Humble Enterprise. London: Ward Lock, 1896; Melbourne: E.W. Cole, 1896.
  • Materfamilias. London: Ward, Lock: 1898; New York: D. Appleton, 1898.
  • A Woman's Friendship (Serialised in the Age, 1889; first published in book form in 1988)
  • Path and Goal. London: Methuen, 1900.
  • The Devastators. London: Methuen, 1901.
  • Sisters. London: Hutchinson, 1904; Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin, 1989.
  • A Platonic Friendship. London: Hurst & Blackett, 1905.
  • A Happy Marriage. London: Hurst & Blackett, 1906.
  • The Eternal Feminine. London: Hurst & Blackett, 1907.
  • The Retrospect. London: Stanley Paul, 1912.
  • The Making of Rachel Rowe. New York: Cassell Novel, 1914.

Short fictionEdit

  • At Midnight, and other stories. London: Ward, Lock, & Co., 1897.



  • Stories for Choristers. London: Joseph Masters, [1877?]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[12]

See also Edit



  1. 1.0 1.1 Cato (1989) p. v
  2. Morrison (1988) p.xv
  3. Brighton Cemetery
  4. 4.0 4.1 Barton (1988) p. 134
  5. Morrison (1988) p. xxvii
  6. Morrison (1988) p. xxii
  7. Morrison (1988) p. xix
  8. Morrison (1988) p. xx
  9. Barton (1988) p. 133
  10. Gateways November 2007
  11. Bradstock, Margaret, "Echoes of Ada Cambridge",, September 22, 2005. Web, July 18, 2013.
  12. Results page = au:Ada Cambridge, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 18, 2013.

External linksEdit

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