"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

IVORY TOWER; Victorian Writing Slopes

"...and my precious desk, containing my letters and papers, my small amount of cash, and all my valuables, was about to be precipitated from the three-storey window. I flew to rescue it."
Quotation taken from the novel Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

One of my writing slopes, with a Charlotte Bronte journal and Clan Bruce paper weight.

I am just an old fashioned girl at heart.  I love anything that brings back the romance of a by-gone era.       I dream of the days when women were ladies who wore velvet gowns, satin slippers and bonnets; when dance cards fluttered from wrists on threads of silk ribbon and gloves were made from lace and crochet.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading classic authors such as the Bronte sisters is because it is a form of complete escapism. It is the closest we can get to actual time travel. Written at a time when men were usually the main property owners and held all the wealth, the heroines of classic novels had few possessions they could call their own, so what little they did own was very precious.  A workbox and frame for needle work, a vanity chest for jewelry or cosmetics and a portable desk or writing slope were among the items a woman could lay claim to.  

I have always liked writing slopes. They are quite an ingenious invention, akin to the laptop of today.        A writing slope is a small box that folds open on an angle to reveal a sloping desk area.  Each end of the desk area lifts up to access storage space beneath for paper, envelopes etc.  Most writing slopes had built in pencil box compartments, ink wells and velvet skivers to stop the notepaper slipping around.  Ladies would keep diaries, letters, money and personal possessions in their writing slope, locking them safely away from prying eyes.  With a writing slope tucked under her arm, a lady could wander off on her own to write, muse and read private letters.  Writing slopes really were the laptops of their time.

I have two writing slopes. The one pictured above is the one I use most often.  I have written vast amounts of first draft work at this writing slope, before I transfer the long hand manuscript to a Word document on the computer, editing as I go. I like using the writing slope for outdoor writing, journal writing and pondering ideas on the page.  If you have read any of my books, chances are it's first draft incarnation was written here, at the writing slope above, just as it appears in the photograph, set upon the dining table. I feel inspired each time I open it out to begin writing. It is one of my most precious possessions and it has played a significant role in my career.  I doubt if it will ever live in a museum though.


  1. It's beautiful Marie - no wonder you love it so much. I have a personal love of old writing desks with their secret compartments ! Having a special slope/desk to write on is, I think, important to many writers and certainly was integral part of a writers' life in times such as the Brontes and Jane Austen. I have a postcard on my wall of Jane Austen's writing desk complete with ink pot and quill, which I bought when we visited on my 40th b'day !! Happy writing Marie :-)

  2. Haha, you are just like me! I have postcards of the Bronte's writing slopes on my desk, which I bought on a visit to the Bronte Parsonage years ago. I've never been to Jane Austen's home though; I bet it's just as stunning...like being lost in time. Hope your writing is going well Star x