Austen Authors September 17, 2017: Jane Austen’s Writing Desk

I thought for a long time about what I should say in this month’s post.  After a few hours of race-watching (it was a postponed race, so I was watching on Monday instead of Sunday) and bouncing several ideas around in my mind, I decided to go with something writing-related. Suddenly, I thought about our favorite authoress’ desk.

When I went to look for a picture, I found that she had an actual writing desk and the famous little table near the window at Chawton Cottage. I was surprised, though I don’t think I should have been. It only makes sense that she had both. After all, she had not lived at Chawton her entire life. She had moved a few times between her father’s retirement and her death; she probably did not always have room for a table to write on. 

Jane’s portable writing desk, when folded up, looks like a box. It opens so that it forms a slanted, flat space on which to lay paper and write. It has drawers and things to hold extra paper, quills/pens, ink, and other valuables. According to the British Library, it was given to Jane by her father and was used to write the first drafts of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey. When she died, her sister, Cassandra, inherited the desk, and from there it was passed down through the generations, until the late 1990’s, when one of the family gave it to the library for their collection.

Photo courtesy of

 I can’t imagine using either the writing desk or the small table, but then, I can’t imagine writing complete drafts by hand, either. Though I generally dislike the disruptions that our modern technology has caused, I greatly appreciate that which makes my life easier. Things like electricity, running hot water, and indoor plumbing, as well as portable computing devices. 😀

To compare the differences, I will include photos of my relatively large desk and my comfy office chair. There’s not an inkpot in sight, though I do have ink pens handy. 😀



We all know what great works were written and edited by Jane Austen. I’m not sure I can aspire to such greatness, but who knows? Maybe someday, there will be Zoe Burton Fan Fiction, and people will be writing about my desk! 😀

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