Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Voices Found: Ada Cambridge

Ada Cambridge was born today in 1844 in the eastern English town of Norfolk. Her education was taken in hand by a succession of governesses, which she apparently did not like, and by one maiden aunt, whom she later credited with much of her intellectual development.

In 1870 she married the Reverend Mr. George Frederick Cross, and only a few weeks later they moved to Australia, where he was to lead several missionary parishes of the Church of England over the next forty-three years. A few years, later, to supplement his small income and support their growing family, Ada began to write novels, many of them first serialized in magazines. Her reputation grew and her works became popular in England and the US as well as in Australia. She eventually published twenty-five novels, a few books of poetry, and two memoirs, including Thirty Years in Australia (1903). Her novels and other books were published under the name of Ada Cambridge (or, earlier, A.C.) rather than under her married name.

Her views were modern and somewhat unorthodox, especially as expressed in her poems. One of her poetry collections, Unspoken Thoughts (1887) was withdrawn from sale at her request only three days after its publication. Apparently, some of the poems were challenging to the religious and sexual attitudes of the day, and would not have been considered proper from the wife of an Anglican clergyman.

However, her first literary attempts were published a few years before her marriage and emigration. She had written verse as a girl, but her first two books were of hymns:

Hymns on the Litany (1865)
Hymns on the Holy Communion (1866)

The second of these books contained this hymn, which I believe was not taken up by very many hymnals, though I find it interesting. The exclamation points in the first two stanzas give an ecstatic feeling to the communion theme.

Food of heaven! Feast of angels!
On this holy altar spread;
Symbol of the life immortal,
In our sight unfathom├Ęd.

Love celestial! Hope undying!
Here unto our faith revealed;
Light, whose mystery we know not,
Truth, which lips divine have sealed.

Gate of the Eternal City,
Where the angel-echoes ring,
Where our Mediator standeth
With a smile of welcoming.

Jesus stands in light and glory,
Patiently disburdening:
Strength divine, and peace and blessing
On the captive soul to bring.

And the promise stands forever
That each faithful one shall be
Guarded by this grace and power,
By this love, eternally.

Once the gift was freely offered
Now may we its blessing take
Drink the chalice of salvation,
Eat the bread that Jesus brake.

Ada Cambridge, 1866; alt.
William H. Monk, 1850

The Crosses returned to England in 1912 upon his retirement. Though their early years in Australia had been difficult, Ada returned there after George's death in 1917 and remained until her death in 1926.


Dorothy said...

I do like that communion hymn too, C.W.S....especially the third verse which evokes for me the picture of Jesus as our High Priest.

C.W.S. said...

I think the third verse also speaks of the meal itself as the gate between heaven and earth, which is not a commonly used idea, except perhaps in the sense that we can envision the heavenly experience through the earthly one.

Dorothy said...

Yes, I see your point of view on that, C.W.S. Especially when you think that Jesus Himself is symbolized in the meal.