Literary Parlor

The Mansion is hosting a Victorian Literature Book Club a.k.a. “Literary Parlor.” Everyone is welcome to join 19th century bibliophile, Kate Howe, at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion for cookies and conversation about Victorian novels.

The Big Bow Mystery (1891) by Israel Zangwill

On a chilly December morning in Bow, a working-class area in London’s East End, a landlady unsuccessfully attempts to rouse a tenant whose door is locked and bolted from the inside. The alarmed landlady calls upon her neighbor, a retired Scotland Yard detective, who breaks down the door to reveal the tenant with his throat cut and no weapon in sight. “It seems clear that the deceased did not commit suicide,” the coroner declares at the inquest, adding, “It seems equally clear that the deceased was not murdered.”
So begins Israel Zangwill’s darkly humorous mystery, which marked a turning point in detective fiction. Sealed-room mysteries had appeared before, but this inventive tale offered a novel exploitation of the genre’s puzzling possibilities. The 1891 publication was serialized in the London Star, a tabloid notorious for its sensational coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders. Between installments, Zangwill engaged in a lively dialogue with his readers, who proposed solutions to the crime (none of them correct). As Publishers Weekly noted, “With a sardonic style and vivid, Dickensian characterizations of Victorian-era London, Zangwill still appeals to contemporary readers.”


Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 1:30 pm 

Cost: $15, Member cost: $10

Reservations are requiredMake reservations online or call 215-438-1861

Lovelorn Literary Parlor

Join bibliophile Kate Howe on Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 1:30 pm for a very special Valentine Literary Parlor. Volunteers select an excerpt from their favorite 19th century novel or short story – the topic “love” or “unrequited love.” Come with your sweetheart or come alone.

Select a story or excerpt that can be read in less than 10 minutes. Time allows for only 8 readers so submit your selection early. For consideration as a reader, send your short story choice to or call 215-438-1861. Readers will be chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis. Readers must purchase a ticket.

Stories already selected are “Nelly, I’m Heathcliff” from Wuthering Heights, “The Cold Embrace” by Mary Elizabeth Bradton, and “The Wife of His Youth” by Charles Chesnutt. You can choose a story to read or just enjoy listening.

Join us for what promises to be an interesting if not romantic Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy special Valentine cookies.

Cost: $15, Member cost: $10

Click here for reservations or call 215-438-1861

Image from Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion’s postcard collection. View more online at FLICKER

Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope

Join bibliophile, Kate Howe, as our Literary Parlor discusses Anthony Trollope’s fortieth book, Dr. Wortle’s School. The novel, set in the fictional 19th century British parish of Bowick,  revolves around Dr. Wortle’s Christian Seminary. Wortle hires Mr. and Mrs. Peacock, a respected English scholar and his American wife. The discovery that Mr. and Mrs. Peacock are not legally married scandalizes Bowick residents. Mrs. Peacock erroneously thought that her first husband, an abusive drunkard named Colonel Ferdinand Lefroy, was killed in America’s Civil War. The novel revolves around Wortle’s attempts to re-build his reputation, Mr. Peacock’s search to discover Colonel Lefroy’s true status, and the town’s judgment of bigamy as a sin.

Sunday, March 10, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Cost: $15; Member cost: $10

Reservations are required. Make reservations online or call 215-438-1861

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Join bibliophile, Kate Howe, as our Literary Parlor discusses Joseph Conrad’s 1899 book, The Heart of Darkness. The narrator, Charles Marlow, tells the story of a voyage up the Congo River into the “heart of Africa.” The novella is based on Conrad’s own experience in 1890 as he became the Captain of a steamer traveling to various stops along the Congo River. Marlow tells his story while aboard a boat anchored on the Thames River in England. Conrad compares London with Africa illustrating that there is little difference between so-called civilized people and those described as savages.

Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Cost: $15; Member cost: $10

Reservations are required. Make reservations online  or call 215-438-1861

Step back in time for some old fashioned fun away from our modern computers and digital devices. Join us for craft beer, pretzels and an evening of 19th century parlor games.

  • Charades
  • The Name Game
  • Elephant’s Foot Umbrella Stand
  • Alphabet Mute
  • Wink Murder
  • The Name Game
  • Consequences

Don’t miss our on what most certainly will be a fun-filled evening!

Friday, June 14, 7:00 pm

Cost: $15, Member cost: $10 Reservations are required. Make reservations online or call 215-438-1861

Written by Frances Milton Trollope (mother of Anthony Trollope) in 1839, The Widow Barnaby is a lighthearted Victorian romance. The novel opens with the death of Old Reverend Compton, which leads to a squabble over the inheritance by the relatives. The tale evolves with the vain, flirtatious and presumptuous husband hunting Mrs. Barnaby leading to awkward moments and ridiculous mistakes. Added to this are the loves and distresses of the Widow Barnaby’s lovely and demure niece Agnes. Join bibliophile Kate Howe in a lively discussion of Frances Trollope’s highly regarded novel.

Sunday, July 21, 1:30 pm

Cost: $15, Member cost: $10. Reservations are required.