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?