COLONIAL Australia’s first significant woman poet —who expressed thoughts on the ‘limitations of sexual love’ and concern for the underprivileged in a book of sonnets published while she lived in Beechworth in the late nineteenth century — will be celebrated with readings in the town’s Anglican Christ Church on July 6.
Beechworth Arts Council has joined with Christ Church to present readings from the works of writer Ada Cambridge, who lived in Beechworth between 1885 and 1893 where her husband, George Cross, was vicar.
It was from these parish experiences and Cambridge’s keen observations of colonial society that she wrote Thirty years in Australia, which was published in 1903. Her earlier ‘rebellious book of poetry’, Unspoken thoughts, was described by academic Margaret Bradstock in 2006 — in a new introduction to a reprint of Thirty years — as ‘evincing a strong social conscience and investigating a freeing-up of sexual mores and religious conventions’. Publisher George Robertson said that Unspoken thoughts when published in 1887 placed Cambridge ‘among the immortals’. It was later republished in 1913 in a curtailed, toned-down version as The hand in the dark.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography’s Jill Roe wrote that Cambridge began writing with purpose during snatched leisure in 1873 ‘to add … to the family resources when they threatened to give out’. ‘Her fluent and unpretentious work attracted attention at once: Up the Murray which was published as a serial in the Australasian in 1875, the first of several to appear in the next 15 years in those pages, gained her passport into the society of the Anglo-Australian aristocracy which she found so congenial and portrayed repeatedly in her novels.’
The Arts Council readings will take place almost 92 years to the day after Cambridge’s death in Melbourne in 1926. She was 81.
Where: Christ Church, 27 Ford Street, Beechworth Victoria 3747
Date: Friday July 6, 2018
Ticket: $10 includes refreshments: book now