skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   [14–20] April [1878]1



My dear Darwin

There are two orphan boys, grandsons of Jimmy Button now at our Mission station, and they the missionaries are anxious to help these boys there and train them up.2 The expense for each would be 10£ a year and the elder one has been provided for by the Beckenham Branch of the Mission under the name of “William Beckenham Button”.3

I think it would be a nice thing if the old Beagles would adopt the younger one and call him “Jimmy FitzRoy Button”— He is now called “James” B— If we were each to give 1£ a year it would provide for him, as I think FitzRoy’s family would help. I am writing to all our old party.4 Hamond was here recently and he was glad to join. He has gone out to Gibraltar to take his daughter in law (a neice of my wife). and baby out to her Husband who has lately gone out to command a gun boat there.5

I hope you are all well. I have been again confined for a month with cough & cold, and could not go with my wife & daughter to our younger son’s marriage at Dover last week.6 I am getting all right again and all our party are now out of Doctor’s list.

With our kind regard to Mrs. Darwin and all your family | Believe me | very sincerely yours | B. J. Sulivan


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to B. J. Sulivan, 22 April 1878. The date range is established by the reference to Henry Norton Sulivan’s wedding having taken place the previous week; he was married on 9 April (see n. 6, below).
Jemmy Button, originally named Orundellico, was a Fuegian of the Yahgan tribe. He was brought to England in 1830 by Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle, and returned to Tierra del Fuego in 1833; he died in 1861. The South American Missionary Magazine, 1 February 1878, pp. 32–3, had listed orphans in need of support, including Jemmy Button’s ‘unnamed’ (that is, with no Christian names) grandsons aged 10 and 8, whose parents had died two years previously. These orphan boys (whose Yahgan names were Pucananlacitanjiz and Cooshaipunjiz) were the sons of Jemmy Button’s eldest son, Coofyinuganjiz, and his wife Loocoīliceepa (ibid., 1 February 1878, p. 32, 1 October 1879, p. 223). They were at the mission that had been established for Fuegians at Ushuaia in the Beagle Channel, Patagonia (Hazlewood 2000. p. 343).
The adoption of 10-year-old ‘Willy Beckenham’ (Pucananlacitanjiz) by the Beckenham and Shortlands Association was reported in the South American Missionary Magazine, 1 March 1877, p. 76, in a note emphasising the importance of ‘Juvenile Associations’ and ‘Children Collectors’.
Sulivan, who had been second lieutenant on HMS Beagle when CD was on board during the 1831–6 voyage, was a long-time supporter of the South American Missionary Society; CD had made a donation in 1867 (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 5 January 1874 and n. 2). FitzRoy’s family included his widow, Maria Isabella FitzRoy, their daughter Laura Maria Elizabeth FitzRoy, his son and two daughters from his first marriage, Robert O’Brien FitzRoy, Fanny FitzRoy, and Katherine FitzRoy, and his brother, George FitzRoy.
Robert Nicholas Hamond (1809–83) had been a midshipman on HMS Beagle when CD was on board. Hamond’s eldest son, Robert Nicholas Hamond (1844–94), was in command of the gunboat Composite, stationed in Gibraltar (Navy list 1878). He had married Janetta Tucker, daughter of Sophia Sulivan’s sister Sabine Anne Tucker, in 1877 (Burke’s landed gentry 1952, s.v. Hamond). The baby was Philip Walpole Hamond; he died in Gibraltar before November 1878 (see letter from B. J. Sulivan, 3 November 1878).
Henry Norton Sulivan had married Grace Mary Griffin on 9 April 1878 (England, select marriages, 1538–1973 (, accessed 1 February 2017)). It was probably Sulivan’s daughter Sophia Henrietta Sulivan who accompanied her mother, Sophia Sulivan, to the wedding.


Burke’s landed gentry: A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank but unvisited with heritable honours. Burke’s genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry. By John Burke et al. 1st–18th edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1833–1969.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Hazlewood, Nick. 2000. Savage. The life and times of Jemmy Button. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

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


Asks whether CD wishes to join other old "Beagles" in supporting an orphan grandson of Jemmy Button.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 304
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11459,” accessed on 13 September 2023,