In the Matthew Macfadyen / Keira Knightley 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice, there's a scene where Mr. Darcy is writing a letter, despite Miss Bingley's determination he shall pay attention to her instead.
It reads, in part:
Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion. The perpetual commendations of the lady either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.
"How delighted Miss Darcy will be to receive such a letter!"
He made no answer.
"You write uncommonly fast."
"You are mistaken. I write rather slowly."
"How many letters you must have occasion to write in the course of the year! Letters of business too! How odious I should think them!"
"It is fortunate, then, that they fall to my lot instead of to yours."
In that scene, we see Mr. Darcy writing his letter using a "writing slope''. Go ahead. Rent the film and see.
This 'writing slope' is a wood box with an angled surface, elevated a couple inches above the desk or table, slanted and padded with felt or leather. See the folks at the left using these. The man in the wig is Samuel Johnson.
This writing slope might be a heavy object, made for use in the comfort of the library or study. It might stay at home, perfectly content, and never go adventuring. Or the writing slant might lead a very exciting life indeed ...
Toward the end of the Eighteenth Century, the writing slope shrank in size, sprouted handles, and transformed itself into a sort of traveling desk.
It was now both a a writing surface and a sturdy wood box for transporting and storing the impedimenta. Like the stay-at-home writing slopes, these traveling desks or 'lap desks' were angled to provide that optimal slanted writing experience.
That writing desk on the far right, by the way, is said to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson.
The post continues at Word Wenches. Here