Friday, January 14, 2011

It's in the Bag

I nearly hit a wall with my work in progress this week. My hero (you remember the baronet of Blackcliff?) has traveled on horseback in September of 1811 up to an estate he has recently been awarded in the Lakes District. He didn’t intend to stay more than a few days, but circumstances conspire to keep him there a few weeks. During that time, he climbs a mountain, attends services at the local church, and even sweeps the heroine off to the local assembly for dancing. The problem? His suitcase.

When you don’t have a large traveling carriage, your options for packing are limited. English saddles don’t have horns like Western saddles. Saddle bags were more often put on pack horses (which my hero does not own) than riding horses. But the cavalry had some sort of cases that connected to saddles (the picture is of an American one).

Kind of puny, isn’t it?

His problem would be the problem of any young man or lady traveling by horseback or even on the mail coach, where you could only bring so much luggage. And this was still a time when most clothing and footwear were custom-made; not so easy to borrow or buy when you get to your destination, at least immediately. I’m pretty good at packing light, but there’s no way I could fit enough clothes, even with today’s modern packable fabrics, for a variety of activities spanning two or more weeks into a case that size.

So, what did he bring with him?

He’s wearing stockings and boots, trousers, a greatcoat, jacket, waistcoat, shirt, cravat, and hat. He needs a shaving kit. Though it’s a little outside our period (early 1900s), I liked this one made from elephant hide. And he’d have to bring some traveling money with him, which means piles of gold coin (bank drafts aren’t going to work in the wilds of Cumberland). Doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for much else, does it?

The necessities, as I see them, are a nightshirt and a spare shirt, pair of trousers, and a couple cravats so the maid can wash the ones he’s wearing. A spare jacket and waistcoat so he can change up his look a bit would be nice, but that may be straining credibility. But dancing shoes? Not making the cut. Nicer outfit for church? Not going to happen. Spare boots to climb that mountain? Nah.

If you had two small bags for a young nineteenth century gentleman, what would you put in them?

12 comments:

QNPoohBear said...

Young gentlemen seem to get by with so much less. I just read Georgette Heyer's The Toll-Gate and the hero doesn't have any luggage with him at all and manages to buy a few necessities in the village. I'm sure your hero will figure it out and tell you what he needs.

Me said...

I would think a young gentleman of means would be leading a packhorse carrying all that he required. After all, there are things that one just does not do without. :)

Me said...

BTW, he wouldn't need to own one, just hire one for the trip from the local hostler.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, QNPoohBear and Me. He seems to think he needs a great deal less than I think he needs. He can't really afford to buy a packhorse, but I like the idea of hiring one. Then he can have more clothes for me to play with, er to wear. :-)

Marissa Doyle said...

Er...what about drawers? I think men were wearing them pretty commonly.

Regina Scott said...

Well, I was trying to sidestep them. You know, like how we don't usually talk about when characters go to the lavatory. :-)

But yes, they would need to be squeezed into those little pouches too!

Marissa Doyle said...

Oops...sorry. I sometimes mention things like undergarments and visiting the necessary in books, but not all editors are open to details like that. :)

Bridgette Booth said...

How interesting. Wouldn't a servant come along with his luggage? Or even a case? I was under the impression that was kind of standard for any person in those circles. Like in Sense and Sensibility, when the servants take the furniture and clothing ahead of the family to settle them before the move? Or send the bags ahead by stagecoach? (Which was the cheaper travel used in Pride and Prejudice, I think.)I'm still marveling though over packing that bag with anything past one night! :)

Regina Scott said...

Bridgette, the problem I'm having is that my dear baronet is impoverished. He's done a good job of covering that up, but he doesn't have a servant who can come with him, and he only owns the one horse (that's why the hired pack horse was so appealing to me!). You are quite right, though: generally traveling would involve servants and carriages and what not.

Marissa Doyle said...

A single man who lives in "rooms" somewhere wouldn't necessarily travel "heavy", the way it was depicted in P&P and S&S. And if, as Regina said, he's just planning on being away a few days, he can get away with packing light.

A traveller in time said...

Wouldn't he have a bestie he could write to who would bring some spare togs to him? Best friends are a treasure after all. Or some kind of old family retainer who would do it out of love for the family?

Regina Scott said...

Traveller, that's actually what I ended up doing. I really like the idea of a pack horse, but in the limited amount of time I had to research, I couldn't be 100% sure they were used by the aristocracy in 1811. Thanks for the suggestion!