In this issue:

Banner Image: Members' Reading Room, c.1962-63.

Membership        New Books        Donate        Current Exhibition        Event Calendar

Banner Image: Members' Reading Room, c.1962-63.


Call For Volunteers


In the coming months the Athenaeum will offer two opportunities for willing volunteers. 

Athenaeum Book Sale:  Beginning in May, the Athenaeum will need volunteers to sort, price, and shelve books for the Athenaeum book sale which opens in June.  During the days when the Athenaeum is open for the sale, we will also need volunteers to help buyers and to handle the checkout desk.  If you are interested, please e-mail Susan Gallo at to sign up, and we will call to set up a schedule for you.  

Second Saturday Opening:  As many of you know, the Athenaeum is open only the First Saturday of the month for weekend hours.  We would like to expand to a Third Saturday, but we need volunteers in order to do that.  The hours are 11am to 3pm, and we will need help with the reception desk and the circulation desk specifically.  If you are interested in this opportunity, please e-mail Sandra Tatman at Thank you to all who volunteer.  You demonstrate to us both your affection for and your involvement in the activities of the Athenaeum.


Upcoming Programs


March 7, 5:30PM: John Dixon Hunt, A World of Gardens.


A World of Gardens looks at gardens and landscapes in all sizes and guises, and seeks to explain both their cultural contexts as well as their designs


Free for Athenaeum Members. RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or  All others $10.  You may pay online.


March 9, 3:30PM: Lawrence M. Arrigale and Thomas H. Keels, Philadelphia's Golden Age of Retail.   


The authors have assembled hundreds of pictures which trace the birth, rise, and decline of these great stores, along with such topics as their suburban expansion and holiday celebrations.


Free for Athenaeum Members. RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or  All others $10.  You may pay online.


Philadelphia Cultural Fund Grant

We are pleased to announce that the Philadelphia Cultural Fund has awarded the Athenaeum $8775 for general operating purposes in its 2012 cycle of grants.  The Athenaeum receives this grant as part of the Museums category of Philadelphia Cultural Fund grants.

Member News: Peter Zimmerman Exhibits at the Historic Home Show

Founded in 1982, Peter Zimmerman Architects specializes in custom, residential architecture. Mr. Zimmerman provides design leadership in the firm while maintaining hands on involvement in all of his projects.

The Historic Home Show is the event for anyone who wants to know how to create, decorate, learn, preserve, restore, renovate and display historical architecture.


Above Right: House in Fairfield, CT.  Peter Zimmerman Architects.

Member Critics

P. D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.


Reviewed by Trina Vaux.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most beloved works in the English canon and its opening, one of the best known. Who dares to write a sequel? Many have, causing considerable consternation among Janeites. And now comes P.D. James, the highly regarded mystery writer. Here's her opening, a summary prologue:

"It was generally agreed by the female residents of Meryton that Mr. and Mrs. Bennett of Longbourn had been fortunate in the disposal in marriage of four of their five daughters." Describing Meryton, she writes: " the chief entertainment takes place in private houses where the boredom of dinner parties and whist tables, always with the same company, is relieved by gossip."

What fun she's having! The Austenesque dry wit is there, the commentary on human nature. There's a familiar rhythm in the multi-claused sentences that land solidly in a few telling words. And no wonder. James rereads Jane Austen every year. She has no need to attempt laboriously to copy Austen's style. She has her own smooth elegance drawn from reading and rereading.

There are, of course, big differences between James's work and Austen's. The pace is a bit faster, the language and construction generally more modern. The cause of death, the inquest and trial are given in detail. (This is not a spoiler-if there's a death in the title and it's P.D. James, the former magistrate, there must be an inquest and trial.) The handsome red-coated officers who enliven Austen's small towns, sending her ladies atwitter, actually have a job that Austen never mentions but James does-fighting the Napoleonic Wars.

James even plays a bit with the characters. The restrained Fitzwilliam Darcy has redeeming qualities. He develops a more human side brought out by the more playful Elizabeth. Kind of like the restrained Adam Dalgleish.

For P. D. James, mysteries are fundamentally novels of manners but with an extra element of suspense. Her concern is with human character and relationships, as is Austen's. While James generally deals with murder, Austen deals with marriage-whodunit vs. will-they-or-won't-they.  Death Comes to Pemberley has both.

This is the work of a master, a master at play with a challenge-a dare, perhaps? It's not Jane, herself, of course, and Janeites will undoubtedly carp. But it is a good read.


Do you have a book that you loved (or hated), and would you be willing to share that opinion in the Athenaeum e-newsletter?  If so, please send your short essay to



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