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Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   29 December 1875


Decr. 29. 75

My dear Darwin

Many happy returns of the season to you and yours. I was very glad to hear a pretty good report of your health from your son who was here a short time since.1 We have been very busy since our summer trip, in moving from our old house, which I sold, to one more suitable for old people, being of two stories only instead of four. I built it six years since and let it till we wanted it for ourselves.2

I have not heard of our old shipmates lately except Hammond—who had been very ill for a few days owing to a drain being foul but not found out in time.3 I heard from King about a month since— he and his wife very well.4

Poor Mr. Langton bears up very well under his heavy trial— his comfort seems to be taking care of the dear little children, Mrs. L having gone to Cannes.5

My youngest brother, late Captn. of London. has just returned, having been dismissed his ship, because their Lordships think he did not show “consideration” enough for a chaplain who had been insulting him for a year because he would not allow the morning service to Ritualistic or vestments with crosses to be worn, though he allowed a second service later in the day with all these kind of things the parson chose to carry on.6 As all the insults were proved at a Court of Inquiry—and written falsehoods—as well as taking liberties with black girls also against this precious parson they were obliged to dismiss him—and to please their Ritualistic friends I suppose dismissed Captain also—without any offence or misconduct of any kind ever being alleged against him. A thing unheard of before.

Then to make it worse they superseed the Captain immediately, but only nominally dismiss the chaplain as he is still serving on the ship.7

My brother has applied for a Court Martial & will insist on it—

My wife8 joins me in kind regards to Mrs Darwin.

Believe me | very sincerely yours | B. J. Sulivan


George Howard Darwin was in Bournemouth in late November 1875 (letter from H. E. Litchfield to Leonard Darwin, 21 November [1875] (DAR 258: 1648)).
Sulivan had retired to Bournemouth in 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 8 May [1865] and n. 17). He named his first house Tregew, after his birthplace, and appears to have transferred the name to his new residence, which was probably built in the garden of the first (Census returns of England and Wales 1871 (The National Archives: Public Record Office (RG10/1176/60/6); 1881 (RG11/1194/136/45)).
Robert Nicholas Hamond was midshipman on the Beagle from 1832 to 1833 (O’Byrne 1849).
Philip Gidley King was midshipman on the Beagle between 1831 and 1836; his wife was Elizabeth King (Aust. dict. biog.).
Charles Langton’s son Edmund had died on 27 November 1875 after a long illness; he was probably taking care of his grandchildren while his daughter-in-law, Emily Caroline Langton, was away. Edmund Langton was Emma Darwin’s nephew.
George Lydiard Sulivan had been appointed captain of HMS London in 1874, with instructions to patrol the waters around Zanzibar to prevent slave-trading (Lloyd 1968, p. 270). The chaplain on board the London was Edward Lewton Penny. Their Lordships: the lords commissioners of the Admiralty.
In September 1875, Sulivan’s cousin, Thomas Baker Martin Mason Sulivan, took over as captain of the London, and George Lydiard Sulivan was appointed to HMS Triumph (The Times, 2 October 1875, p. 8). From October 1875 to February 1876 there was no chaplain listed for the London in the Navy list; on 21 January 1876, Robert O’Donelan Ross-Lewin was appointed (London Gazette, 25 January 1876, p. 301; Navy list, March 1876).
Sophia Sulivan.


Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lloyd, Christopher. 1968. The Navy and the slave trade: the suppression of the African slave trade in the nineteenth century. London: Frank Cass & Co.

Navy list: The navy list. London: John Murray; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1815–1900.

O’Byrne, William R. 1849. A naval biographical dictionary: comprising the life and services of every living officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the rank of admiral of the fleet to that of lieutenant, inclusive. London: John Murray.


BJS has just moved.

Gives the information he has of their old shipmates.

Tells of his brother’s misfortunes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 302
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10331,” accessed on 25 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23