A Writing Table Fit for Jane Austen, a Guest Post from Laurie Benson

A Writing Table Fit for Jane Austen, a Guest Post from Laurie Benson

A Writing Table Fit for Jane Austen

First, thank you for having me on Austen Authors.

Since I collect antiques, I thought I’d share one with your readers that might have appealed to Jane Austen. It’s my Georgian era writing desk. I confess, while it’s in my home and I adore it, the Georgian writing table is much too small for me to use as my primary desk. For Jane, however, it would have been ideal, since her desk was about the same size.






In 1809, Jane Austen moved to Chawton Cottage in Hampshire with her mother, her sister Cassandra, and friend Martha Lloyd. If you visit Chawton Cottage today, you’ll see the small twelve-sided walnut table Jane sat in front of when she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. It’s also from this table that she penned Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion

Jane Austen’s Writing Table at Chawton Cottage, courtesy of the Jane Austen House Museum









As was the custom of the day, she would have used a writing slope on top of the table. Inside her slope she would have kept her quills, inkpots, and paper.  Many slopes have hidden compartments. This Georgian era writing slope is one of mine.










According to A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, Jane’s table was located in the general sitting room of the house. This room had little privacy but thankfully for Jane, it had a creaking door. She never wanted this door fixed since it warned her of any approaching visitors. Once she heard the door creak, she would hide her manuscript before anyone could see it.  My writing table has a special feature that I think she would have appreciated and found quite useful.

When I stumbled across this mahogany table at my favorite antique shop, I fell in love with this little treasure dating from the Georgian era. It has one drawer, and a writing surface covered in felt that slides out of the front. While I was inspecting the piece, I discovered a silk brocade-covered panel on the lower back of the table that slides up and down. The owner of the shop was away at the time, and unfortunately his assistant couldn’t tell me anything about this feature.










Once I had the table home, I looked through Judith Miller’s book Furniture World Styles from Classical to Contemporary and was thrilled to find a picture of a writing table almost identical to mine. The description of the table in her book reads:

English Writing Table: This one-drawer mahogany table has a leather insert top. A silk-upholstered, adjustable face screen is fitted to the back. It has square tapering legs with brass canisters. circa 1790 W. 17 inches.

With additional research I discovered a face screen was a useful feature. If you were sitting too close to the hearth, you could raise the face screen to shield yourself from the heat of the fire. Keep in mind during the Georgian era, many women and men wore makeup. To prevent your face from melting, you could raise the face screen.

I also think Jane Austen would have liked the feature to prevent prying eyes from reading her writing.












Laurie Benson is an award-winning author of historical romances published by Harper Collins. When she’s not at her laptop avoiding laundry, she can be found browsing museums or heading for the summit on a ridiculously long hike. She’s loves to chat with readers and fans of the regency era. You can find her on Twitter at @LaurieBwrites or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaurieBensonAuthor. To find out more about her books, visit her historical blog, or subscribe to her newsletter, visit her website at http://lauriebenson.net





Her current release, An Unexpected Countess, is nominated for Harlequin’s 2017 Hero of the Year Award.

Sarah Forrester is an American diplomat’s daughter who must locate the fabled Sancy Diamond or her family will be ruined by a mysterious blackmailer. But the Earl of Hartwick has also been tasked by the Prince Regent with finding the diamond. Little does Hart know that the feisty woman he meets on a roof top is his competition. As they each follow the clues hidden in a bracelet, Sarah and Hart realize they will have to work as a team. Being together may be as dangerous to their hearts as the hunt is to their lives…and finding the jewel is only the beginning.

Amazon: getBook.at/UnexpectedAmzUni

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2kjGkIM

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2wEhmYm

iBooks: http://apple.co/2jUPGHq

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2jUOFiK





Other Regency-era Books by Laurie Benson…


16 Responses to A Writing Table Fit for Jane Austen, a Guest Post from Laurie Benson

  1. First congratulations on your book and second, I love your Georgian desk and your writing slope! I also noticed the miniature on it as well. That is one of my passions, hunting for portrait miniatures. I tend to get mine from auctions though. I have been looking out for a writing slope as well and maybe one day I will be so lucky.

  2. Thank you Regina for hosting Laurie Benson. What a gorgeous find in your writing desk, Laurie. I am with J.W. Garrett in that I’ve always found writing slopes, (a new word for me, as in most Regency and JAFF I’ve read these portable writing desks are referred to as just that,) completely fascinating and even have coveted one for myself. I used to hand write so many letters and cards in my youth, I always had writing materials with me no matter what. I also used to acquire antiques, or quite vintage pieces to refinish and I really miss my refinishing days along with a lot of things I used to do with my hands. Ah, the golden years, ha, better than the alternative.

    I can still enjoy and thrill along with others in their treasure finding. Laurie, you’re a new author for me and I just added the above to my wish list and I’ll be following you. Best of luck.

  3. Finding a treasure in an antique store is always a rush. However, discovering the little secrets the table holds is an even greater high. I’m sure just touching it will give you story ideas galore of just who would use the item and how you can build an adventure around it. Since I watched our Austen characters use a writing slope in the various movies, I’ve always wanted one. Why? I have no idea, I just think they are so cool. During the filming of P&P, Emma Thompson used a quill to do a lot of her writing so she could remain in character. She is so cool. I’ve written to a friend using a writing nib or quill dip pen… and a bottle of ink… just for the fun of it. My friend has come to expect the unexpected from me. I even sealed it with sealing wax… now I know I’ve gone too far. Thanks for posting with us today and blessings on the success of your book.

    • A rush is the perfect way to describe the feeling, J.W. I recently signed a contract with my publisher to write a Christmas novella and I signed it on one of my writing slopes with a feather pen, just for the fun of it. I think it’s great you tried writing the way they did 200 years ago. It’s fun to find different ways to experience the past.

  4. Interesting post! I love the antique desk and slope! I live in a 107-year-old house and have decided that any tables and such I buy must be old, to fit. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Zoe. It’s fun to find antique treasures. I am always on the lookout for interesting finds. You’d be surprised at the things you can find at tag sales and antique flea markets.

  5. That table looks really nice and definitely like the kind of table I could see Jane Austen writing at.
    Congratulations on An Unexpected Countess being nominated for Harlequin’s 2017 Hero of the Year Award. I have An Unexpected Countess on my TBR List and think it sounds really good.

    • Thanks for asking me to contribute something, Regina. I’m lucky a few shops in my area occasionally will carry some Georgian pieces. They’re not that easy to come across in the US.

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