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“A thoroughly refined and harmonious house, in short; such a house as could only belong to cultivated and enlightened people...”
According to Susan Lever and Elizabeth Morrison, The Perversity of Human Nature by Ada Cambridge records a precise moment in Melbourne’s urban history before the end of the Land Boom, when St Kilda was fashionable, when sail was still an alternative to steam from the port at Sandridge (now Port Melbourne), when the Aesthetic Movement was most influential and Melbourne women dared to follow the dictates of William Morris about dress and interior design.
Cambridge’s novel can be seen as a turning point in Ada Cambridge’s writing career, revealing a remarkable freedom from conventional fictional pieties—for example dealing with bigamy and its consequences, in a satirical, even cavalier vein.
Rather than a story of a woman’s rebellion against domesticity, The Perversity is a satire on the expectations of marriage and the selfishness of both practical husband and self- dramatizing wife.
The novel’s appearance as a Christmas tale also shows a level of subversion rather than an expression of Christmas sentiment: indeed, Cambridge writes that ‘Christmas in these parts is seldom a complete success, under the most favorable of conditions...’
ADA CAMBRIDGE (1844–1926), was an English-born Australian writer, highly regarded for her more than twenty-five works of fiction, numerous volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works. Known to friends and family by her married name, Ada Cross, she was known to her newspaper readers by the initials, A.C.