with intense eagerness since 2012! a channel of the los angeles review of books

Lady Catherine de Bourgh Tells You How To Pack For Your Summer Vacation

So. I have some thoughts about your packing.

Your gowns are not well packed. I have been looking them over, and they are not well packed. What were you thinking? You have just sort of – done what exactly with them?

I have so many directions as to the best method of packing. It is necessary that you place your gowns in the only right way.

I’m not trying to be severe, but you need to undo all your work of the morning and pack your trunk afresh. This is a goddamned disaster.

I don’t even know what is happening here with this packing.

Do you understand trunks? Do you understand how they work? They are like boxes that you can move from one place to another place, and you put things in them, and they have lids.

Is that clear? Can I elaborate further?

[Sigh], these gowns. There is no order to this at all.

I can help. I’m not mistress of Rosings for nothing.

How many gowns do you have? Like a lot of gowns? Or not that many because you are kind of poor?

Packing efficiently is a sign of virtue. Like having a huge amount of land and lots of servants and large paintings of dogs.

My daughter Anne sucks at packing too. Cough, cough. Don’t cough on the gowns, girl. I swear.

But she will still marry well.

I’ll just sit down over here on this fainting couch in case you need more advice on packing your gowns.

Just kidding. Of course you need advice.

So: your gowns. How are you packing them? What is your method? I am far from requiring that elegance of dress which becomes myself and my daughter. But that said, these gowns are kind of shabby, and if you pack them badly, they are going to wrinkle and look even shabbier.

You’ll never get a husband if your gowns are wrinkled. Is that what you want??? To be on your own like a woman who is on her own, which is to say utterly and completely by herself and with no man at all???


That’s what I thought. Just hand me the gowns. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself or pay literally hundreds of people to do it.

I’m going to have a goddamned heart attack because this is the most upsetting packing I have ever seen. I am most seriously displeased.

Here: I have a checklist I tore out of a magazine. The magazine was at the nail salon, but I was discreet.

What are the particulars of your journey? You must plan your packing in relationship to the particulars of your journey. Everyone knows that. Is this a beach vacation? A trip to a European city? A desert retreat?

What is a desert? I have never heard of this. It is probably a mistake.

Shall we do the checklist together?

It says to consider the length of your journey. So what is it?? A fortnight? A month? A dirty weekend?

What??? You don’t want my checklist??? I’m Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I’m a serious goddamned big deal, and not just when it comes to packing.

Like when it comes to everything.

Ask Mr Collins. He gets it.


I simply cannot bear the idea of young women travelling post by themselves. It is highly improper. This packing is also highly improper. There is improperness going on all over the place.

I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment. And your trunk doesn’t look very nice. It looks like you got it at Costco.

You say that Costco often has great deals on quality luggage? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Fetch my smelling salts. I feel my faintness coming upon me again.

False alarm. I’m fine.

I’m really rather robust. I’ll never fucking die.

Do it like this. See? Fold this gown here like this. And then this one like this. I don’t know about the color of this one. I think it’s going to wash you out.

And this frock looks a little short. Are you sure you want to take it? No judgment, but you know: judgment.

Maybe you should just get better clothes. But that is a conversation for another time.

Look how I’m placing this one in the trunk here. See??? And this one. And this one.

Where is the tissue paper???? Do you not have tissue paper???? What is this, a whaling ship????

You can also roll your gowns. Rolling really is the best approach. Saves space. Ask anyone. Or just me. Because I know more than anyone.

I wouldn’t take this gown. It is ugly and will pollute the shades of wherever you wear it.

What???? I’m just trying to help. You refuse to obey the claims of gratitude.

I just want you to pack your goddamned gowns properly.

If you mention my name at the Bell, you will be attended to.

Susan Harlan’s humor writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Awl, The Billfold, Avidly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, The Hairpin, The Belladonna, Janice, and The Establishment. Her book Decorating a Room of One’s Own (Abrams, 2018) started as a column entitled “Great House Therapy” for The Toast, which won the Mark Twain House and Museum’s Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest in 2017. She has also published essays in venues includingThe Guardian US, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Roads & Kingdoms, The Common, The Morning News, Curbed, Atlas Obscura, Public Books, and Nowhere. Her book Luggage was published in the Bloomsbury series Object Lessons in March, and she teaches English literature at Wake Forest University.


Related Posts


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here