“The purest Jackass in Cloisterham”, Mr. Thomas Sapsea, auctioneer and Mayor, is a man held in high esteem...by himself. Proud of his voice and manner of speech, “he possesses the great qualities of being portentous and dull, and of having a roll in his speech, and another roll in his gait”. Approaching sixty years old, “with a flowing outline of stomach”, he is believed to be rich, and while he has never been abroad he maintains he has an excellent knowledge of foreign countries and their products through his work.
Mr Sapsea has a curious habit of basing his dress and manner upon the Dean, even to the extent of wearing the same clothes and adopting a style of address during auctions approximating that of a church service. When he meets the Dean in the street, it is always taken as an opportunity to assess any additional details in dress that may be mimicked, such as his coat buttons. But his most direct link to the cathedral is his masterpiece, a memorial to his late wife Ethelinda, who had the great fortune of being married to such an estimable man, and the great misfortune of always being aware of her comparative lowliness. Yet it is to be remembered of her that in all Mr Sapsea’s experience, he has never met another spirit “more capable of looking up to him”.
It was Mr Sapsea’s work on the memorial which first brought him in contact with John Jasper - who was honoured to extend his approval of the epitaph – and the somewhat less dubious contact with the “common mind” of Durdles, the stonemason who though given the honour of translating Sapsea’s ethereal wisdom onto the monument, has also been seen to publically disagree with and even remonstrate Mr Sapsea on the street.
In the wake of Edwin Drood’s disappearance Mr Sapsea has been fulfilling his civic duties as Mayor by interrogating Neville Landless and offering support to his dear, and grieving, friend, John Jasper, for whom he is always happy to give testimonial, such as when requested by the newcomer to the city, Dick Datchery.