You’ve probably heard about Joan Didion’s famous packing list, the one she kept taped to her closet door.
It was published in her book The White Album, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Mostly, it gives us the illusion that all that’s standing between us and Didion-esque grace is two leotards, a mohair throw, and some cigarettes. Packing lists are beautiful that way: They cut to the chase, distill a person to their essence, and fit their whole life into a carry-on. Unfortunately, the vast majority of canonical authors died before they could bequeath us the window into their soul that is the packing list. Here, you’ll find the probable packing lists of seven dearly departed authors. Because—to misquote Shakespeare, who traveled with so many ruffs he must have had to check a bag—presumption is the soul of wit.
One full dress gown, befitting the unmarried daughter of a baronet of two thousand a year, and whose station in life is a constant vexation to his wife
One pair of boots suitable for walking through fields, with the potential for rain, misunderstandings, and persuasion
One bonnet, to shield one’s fine eyes from both sun and coy glances
Two petticoats, in case one is ruined by mud from vigorous walking, or by scandal. Various books, should the company of one’s traveling companions prove tiresome, and the company of one’s family and friends frequently does
Earplugs, see above
Three identical undershirts
Photograph of a woman with brown hair and the kind of dull skin that comes from living
37 pocket squares
Beer we can drink till dawn with Dean and some pretty girls we meet, dancing on cars in our old clothes, bring those too—maybe some shorts and a light jacket if we go to San Francisco because of the weather there—and some bread to make sandwiches. Cigarettes we can smoke with some other pretty girls we meet, even though some of them might be ugly but we’ll give them cigarettes anyway and dance with them too, so we’re going to need to bring actually a lot of cigarettes, more than I originally thought, and probably also a typewriter for these mad beautiful thoughts of America, searching for something like in a dream, a crazy dream of America. Oh, and whiskey.
Wild hyacinth blue one-piece
grass-green beach towel[[
Travel is Nice —
To like on Instagram — like —
But I would rather stay —
All my things are here!
1 monogrammed handkerchief for mopping the genteel sparkle of perspiration from a lady’s brow (modest blush pink)
1 shirt for jaunty car ride after which nothing will ever be the same (discarded Christmas tree green)
1 pair of trousers for luncheon of melancholy longing (squandered masculinity navy)
1 shirt for elegant, but laden with ragged silences, supper (decorative swan white)
Foreshadowing duster (overcast midday sky, thick and oppressive, gray)
Underwear—borne ceaselessly back into the laundry (assorted colors)