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Mary Cowden Clarke

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Published : 4 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 22/6/1809
Death : 12/1/1898
Views : 1558

Scholar and writer. Daughter of Vincent Novello, music publisher and prominent figure in British cultural life in the early nineteenth century. Sister to Clara Novello, the opera singer. Parents were part of a literary and artistic circle that included Leigh Hunt, John Keat, Mary Shelley, and Charles and Mary Lamb. Studied latin and poetry with Mary Lamb before being sent to school in Boulogne. From 1825-1826 was employed as a governess. In July 1828 married author Charles Cowden Clarke, whom she had met ten years earlier through mutual acquaintance Leigh Hunt. From 1856 lived almost exclusively in Italy.


Best known for her works on Shakespeare, including The Complete Concordance to Shakespeare, being a verbal index to all the passages in the dramatic works of the poet, which she began work on in 1829, and was published in eighteen monthly parts from 1844-1845. She also published a series of ten articles, 'On Shakespeare's individuality in his characters' in Sharpe's (1848-1851), as well as The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines (1850-1852), World-Noted Women, or, Types of Womanly Attributes of All Lands and Ages (1858), Shakespeare's Works, Edited with a Scrupulous Revision of the Text (1860), The Life and Labours of Vincent Novello (1864), Recollections of Writers (1877) and My Long Life: An Autobiographical Sketch (1896).

Cowden Clarke was a keen amateur dramatist, and asked Leigh Hunt to request that Dickens invite her to be a part of his company for a series of performances set up to raise money for a curatorship at Stratford upon Avon.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 

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