20 DECEMBER 1946, Page 16


SIR,—Sir Max Beerbohm's pleasant little rebuke comes like a butterfly touch, but my poor little " gifts " combined with your circulation have been so fortunate as to bring from Lady Carnock a letter, in which she says that, as a little girl of 8 or to, while staying with her aunt, the wife of Captain Sankey, R.N., of Coolmore, Fethare, near Clonmel, the was taken to see Miss Dorothy Sankey, Captain Sankey's sister, at Clonmel. This was, she thinks, in or about 187o. As well as she can remember Miss Sankey was " a cheerful, stout lady of middle age."

On reference to Trollope's Autobiography I find that after his marriage he and his wife went to Clonmel in 1844, to which district he was posted. His two sons were actually born to him there. It seems therefore very likely that the Trollopes became acquainted then with Miss Dorothea Sankey, and that the friendship so begun lasted till 1861 (the date of the letter) and to the end of his life. This is admittedly circumstantial evidence, but it seems unlikely that Trollope knew another Miss Dorothy (or Dorothea) Sankey, and it bears out the auctioneer's identification, viz.: "It is thought that Miss Dorothea Sankey was the fourth daughter (out of seven children) of Matthew Villiers Sankey, of Coolmore, co. Tipperary, d. 1815." The real meaning of the letter of March 24, 1861, still remains doubtful, nor need we pry further into its secrets. We, who have loved his work, his own character and his lifelike creations, can be content, for a while, to reciprocate his own manly adieu to his readers, which closes the Autobiography.

I must add that I have just heard from Mr. Michael Sadleir that, in his Trollope: A Commentary, the passage from the Autobiography is stated to refer to an American lady, Miss Kate Field, and cannot refer to the Dorothea Sankey problem, and that this statement was made with greater authority than his own.—Yours faithfully,