Vita Sackville-West’s novel in miniature

Written in the 1920s, a previously unseen story the size of a postage stamp is set to be published

A previously unseen work by the novelist Vita Sackville-West, written for the miniature library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, is set to be published for the first time by Royal Collection Trust.

Handwritten in the 1920s on pages measuring just 39mm x 10mm, A Note of Explanation is a fantastical tale about a sprite who ventures inside the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House – a Sir Edwin Lutyens-designed replica of an aristocratic home that remains on display in Windsor Castle – and delights in the discoveries she makes along the way. From sipping the vintages in the wine cellar to getting stuck in the electric lift, her adventures in this “Aladdin’s palace” of a new home make for a wonderfully whimsical story. 


The work is interesting not only in its own right but also in terms of what it reveals about Sackville-West’s influence on the writing of her friend and lover Virginia Woolf, whose novel Orlando she famously inspired. Conceptual parallels between the two texts suggest that Woolf may have taken her cue from Sackville-West.

‘A Note of Explanation: A Little Tale of Secrets and Enchantment from Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House’ (£16.95, Royal Collection Trust) by Vita Sackville-West, featuring illustrations by Kate Baylay and an afterword by Matthew Dennison, is out on 16 October.



What to book: Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film & Music

Meet the artist: Naomi Howarth

Ten exhibitions to see this autumn