When I was little, one of the games my mother and I played was “I packed my grandfather’s trunk.” You start with that line, and take turns adding an item in alphabetical order. The trick is, you have to repeat the whole string as you go along, so that by the time you’re packing a zebra, a zither, or zwieback, you’ve got to remember the other 25 things you and your companions have packed. It’s a good game for waiting rooms when you can’t run around, and fun for people who love words. How many nouns that start with “y” can you think of?
In less than a week, I’ll be packing someone else’s greatx-grandfather’s trunk for a trip westward into the (relative) wilds of New York State to join a Sketching Party. Despite two intense weeks, I’ve persevered on the orange check gown and made significant progress on the Thriller Spencer and finished the second sheet. This is a trip to a different class altogether, one of my two annual forays into the mercantile class of the early Federal period.
It’s quite the thing, packing your alter ego’s equipage for another century, and as I’ve enjoyed a longer commute recently, I’ve pondered the ways in which we stereotype certain kinds of living history practitioners. Progressives don’t always travel light: they travel right, and in this case, it means a quantity of baggage to create the proper simulacrum of an 1814 excursion.
While I decry the use of film and television as sources for historical costuming, I do appreciate them for inspiration, and it is remarkably easy to get someone else hooked on a good adaptation like the BBC’s 2009 Emma. The depiction of the picnic on Box Hill is particularly good (i.e. excruciating) and the pile of materials required for appropriate comfort is overwhelming to anyone who prefers to travel lightly. Never before have I considered a turkey carpet a possible accessory to an excursion, but when one intends to ape one’s betters and bring culture to the frontier, anything is possible.