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Previously unseen work by Vita Sackville-West reveals parallels with Virginia Woolf's Orlando

Release date: Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The original miniature copy of A Note of Explanation by Vita Sackville-West in the library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House at Windsor Castle.

The original miniature copy of A Note of Explanation by Vita Sackville-West in the library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House at Windsor Castle. ©

An unseen work written by the celebrated novelist Vita Sackville-West for the miniature library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House is to be published for the first time by Royal Collection Trust on 16 October 2017.

A Note of Explanation, originally written in Sackville-West's own hand on pages no larger than postage stamps, has remained unpublished since the 1920s and sheds new light on the novelist's influence on the writings of Virginia Woolf, with whom she famously had a decade-long affair.

The whimsical tale describes a fashionable and ageless sprite who moves into the world's most famous dolls' house and promptly makes herself at home, much to the confusion of the Dolls' House's keepers.  Having been present for all the major moments of fairy-tale history, from Cinderella's ball and Sleeping Beauty's kiss to the creation of Aladdin's palace, she has now embraced the bobbed hair and short skirts of the 1920s and delights in the modern inventions the Dolls' House has to offer.

Vita Sackville-West was an English poet, novelist and garden designer, best known for designing the gardens of Sissinghurst Castle with her husband in the 1930s.  She is also known for her relationship with fellow writer Virginia Woolf, and for serving as the inspiration for the titular character in Woolf's Orlando: A Biography.  Dedicated to Sackville-West, Orlando tells the story of a fashionable, gender-fluid poet who lives for centuries, meeting a number of famous historical figures along the way.  A Note of Explanation reveals that Sackville-West devised a similar concept at least four years earlier, possibly influencing Woolf's creation of Orlando.

Measuring just 39 x 10 mm, the original book is one of 200 volumes produced for the library of Queen Mary's Dolls' House in 1922.  The house is a perfect replica of an aristocratic Edwardian residence, complete with electricity, lifts and running water. The miniature book still sits on the shelves of the Dolls' House library today and can be seen as part of a visit to Windsor Castle.

The new cloth-bound edition features beautiful art-deco-style illustrations by Kate Baylay and an afterword by Matthew Dennison, the acclaimed writer of Vita Sackville-West's most recent biography. 


A Note of Explanation by Vita Sackville-West.


A Note of Explanation: A Little Tale of Secrets and Enchantment from Queen Mary's Dolls' House by Vita Sackville-West will be sold for £16.95 at Royal Collection Trust shops, online at and in all good book shops. 

Find out more about the tiny treasures of Queen Mary's Dolls' House and book your visit to see it at Windsor Castle.