Reprint: Ada Cambridge by Amy E. Mack

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I had a visit this week from a well-known Australian, Ada Cambridge (Mrs. Cross). For the past three years she has been living in England, practically in retirement. She herself says:- "I am too old to make new friends, and I cannot be bothered with acquaintances." But when she knew that I was living at Cambridge she came at once to see me and make my acquaintance, because I am an Australian, and her heart is hungry for our land.

Ada Cambridge, as all readers of her "Thirty Years in Australia" know, is an Englishwoman; but all the best years of her life, the years that really count, were spent in Australia; her children and grandchildren are there, and her one longing is to go back, her one fear that she may die here in the north land. To all intents and purposes she is an Australian, and it was very sweet to meet her and talk about home. She knows Victoria best, of course, but over here the little differences of States all disappear, and it doesn't matter whether one comes from Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, or New South Wales -- we are just Australians. She wanted to know all about friends out there, and her memory of them was as fresh as if she had left them yesterday.

She is not writing very much now. "A book a year for twenty years is," she said, "a big effort when a woman is bringing up a family as well. And I seem to have lost my taste both for reading, and writing novels. I published one last year, but I was not very interested in writing it, and it stretched itself out in the making over nearly three years. Some of the criticisms were very amusing. During my silence of some years a new generation of reviewers has grown up in some of the papers, and several referred to my book as "the first effort of a new writer." Some of them spoke quite encouragingly, and prophesied that I should do something worth- while if I persevered. But you know Zangwill had the same experience, so I cannot feel hurt."

She has not laid by her pen altogether, but finds great pleasure in writing occasional essays of a philosophical nature, chiefly for two American magazines, the "Atlantic Monthly" and the "North American Review."

We had a lovely, friendly afternoon together. It was her first call, but there was nothing formal about it, no watching of the clock for fear of outstaying the conventional time. But we talked and talked, like old friends, and when it was time for her to go I strolled over the common with her in the real Australian fashion of seeing each other home.

"You had better come and see where we live, so that you will be able to find your way," she said.

So I went all the way to her home, the home which she has made so charming and comfortable that it has become an anchor here, keeping her from her beloved Australia. A green plot at the back was surrounded by fruit trees in full bloom; in front a border of bright blue forget-me-nots and brown and golden wallflowers made a lovely show. It was a typically English garden, but the owner did something that was by no means typically English. Stooping down, she plucked a great bunch of the flowers, with a prodigal disregard for the spoilt effect of the beds, and thrust into my hands the very first bunch of flowers that has been given me out of an English garden.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1915

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 21, 2011 10:48 AM.

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