What to pack in 1841

When I began researching 19th century travelers for Lady Elinor's Wicked Adventure, I met Mrs. Hamilton Gray, one of those well-read Victorian ladies of insatiable curiosity and determination and good humor.

She married John Hamilton Gray, a clegryman, in 1829. Both of them seem to have suffered from ill health—or perhaps they just disliked the cold, damp Derbyshire winters. Starting in 1832, they sought warmer climes for the winter, but these trips were not a time for frivolity. They spent a good deal of time in Germany, where they studied German and Hebrew, and later in Italy, where they became entranced by Etruscan antiquities. (As I said, no time for frivolity.)

To further their interest, they attended lectures, met with German archaeologists, visited museums, and toured Etruscan sites in the countryside. Mrs. Gray wrote up a detailed account of those visits, which was published in 1841 as A Tour to the Sepulchres of Etruria.

She made no claim to scholarship, though she was clearly a serious amateur. Her descriptions of the things she saw are detailed and vivid, and to visit those tombs she was willing to undertake journeys that must have been far from comfortable.

I particularly enjoyed her advice to travelers who go off the beaten track. It would never have occurred to me to pack a chicken.


"I think it only fair, when entreating my countrymen to go off the high road, and away from the well-provided inns of the frequented part of Italy, to warn them that they must take their own provisions, or accommodate themselves to the manners and habits of the natives in towns and villages where there is no post.

"The English are too apt to call for tea, coffee, and milk, as a matter of course, and to declare, when they cannot get them, that they are certainly to be found all over the world besides, except at that one unfortunate and most stupid inn to which their ill fortune as that night led them. Above all, they reckon upon bread, biscuit, and wine being staple commodities everywhere. Now it so happens that biscuit is unknown out of the great towns, bread is constantly uneatable, and the wine is too sour to be drunk. Tea is not to be procured, and milk is thought to unwholesome, that for half the year the cows are sent up to the mountains, perhaps ten miles off.

"What then is to be done? A landlord will sometimes coolly say, 'If you required these things, you should have sent to us yesterday, and we should have had them ready; but if you give us no time, you must take what we can give.' We have found the yolk of an egg an excellent substitute for milk with our tea, and gradually got accustomed to the goat’s milk, which is what is used by the people. Eggs may always be had, and omelet; generally, also, fruit and macaroni, rice, and some sort of soup! Cheese is in every house, but generally too strong for an English stomach. The wines of Monte Fiascone and Orvieto are both excellent and celebrated throughout the papal states, but they are heady, and very often mixed with white lead [poisonous, but used since ancient Roman times as a sweetener]. When travellers bring their own provisions, such as fowls, etc., which English travellers often feel ashamed to do, the innkeepers in such places as Orvieto, or Citta di Pieve, are much obliged to them for their consideration, instead of being offended, or thinking it mean, and are quite happy to prepare their provisions with far more of condiment and cookery than we could find in any country inn at home."




oh, this is fun!

Wow, Lil, she was a pip! Thanks for the great insights into that time period. Egg yolks in tea, indeed. That one just made me go "bleccchh!"

I think I'd pass on the egg

I think I'd pass on the egg yolk, but I do know any number of people who travel with their own teabags. I even know one man who travels with his own coffee maker.

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