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Charles Cowden Clarke (1787–1877) and his wife Mary (1809–98) were born into literary and musical circles which deeply shaped their careers and supplied lifelong friendships with great artists and writers. Among Charles's closest school friends was John Keats, and his acquaintances later included William Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Coleridge and the Shelleys. Mary's childhood introduction to Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare led to a lifetime of Shakespearean scholarship, friendship with the Lambs, and her performance in several Shakespearean roles for the amateur company run by Charles Dickens. Wed in 1828, the Cowden Clarkes were, as Mary writes, 'among the happiest of married lovers for more than forty-eight years', publishing jointly and enjoying mutual friendships. Their insightful recollections of their literary friends, first published serially towards the end of Charles's life, were afterwards collected by Mary, together with many important letters, and published in this 1878 work.