CLARKE, CHARLES COWDEN (1787–1877), English author and Shakespearian scholar, was born at Enfield, Middlesex, on the 15th of December 1787. His father, John Clarke, was a schoolmaster, among whose pupils was John Keats. Charles Clarke taught Keats his letters, and encouraged his love of poetry. He knew Charles and Mary Lamb, and afterwards became acquainted with Shelley, Leigh Hunt, Coleridge and Hazlitt. Clarke became a music publisher in partnership with Alfred Novello, and married in 1828 his partner’s sister, Mary Victoria (1809–1898), the eldest daughter of Vincent Novello. In the year after her marriage Mrs Cowden Clarke began her valuable Shakespeare concordance, which was eventually issued in eighteen monthly parts (1844–1845), and in volume form in 1845 as The Complete Concordance to Shakespeare, being a Verbal Index to all the Passages in the Dramatic Works of the Poet. This work superseded the Copious Index to . . . Shakespeare (1790) of Samuel Ayscough, and the Complete Verbal Index . . . (1805–1807) of Francis Twiss. Charles Cowden Clarke published many useful books, and edited the text for John Nichol’s edition of the British poets; but his most important work consisted of lectures delivered between 1834 and 1856 on Shakespeare and other literary subjects. Some of the more notable series were published, among them being Shakespeare’s Characters, chiefly those subordinate (1863), and Molière’s Characters (1865). In 1859 he published a volume of original poems, Carmina Minima. For some years after their marriage the Cowden Clarkes lived with the Novellos in London. In 1849 Vincent Novello with his wife removed to Nice, where he was joined by the Clarkes in 1856. After his death they lived at Genoa at the “Villa Novello.” They collaborated in The Shakespeare Key, unlocking the Treasures of his Style . . . (1879), and in an edition of Shakespeare for Messrs Cassell, which was issued in weekly parts, and completed in 1868. It was reissued in 1886 as Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare. Charles Clarke died on the 13th of March 1877 at Genoa, and his wife survived him until the 12th of January 1898. Among Mrs Cowden Clarke’s other works may be mentioned The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines (3 vols., 1850–1852), and a translation of Berlioz’s Treatise upon Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration (1856).
See Recollections of Writers (1898), a joint work by the Clarkes containing letters and reminiscences of their many literary friends; and Mary Cowden Clarke’s autobiography, My Long Life (1896). A charming series of letters (1850–1861), addressed by her to an American admirer of her work, Robert Balmanno, was edited by Anne Upton Nettleton as Letters to an Enthusiast (Chicago, 1902).