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Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   29 November 1881


Novr. 29/81

My dear Darwin

The time has come for our payment to S.A. M. for our orphan Button.1 I have sent the amount.

I wish you could have given a better account of yourself.2 I should think your brain had done work enough, and has now fairly earned a rest from all but quiet and interesting occupation requiring little thought, and only for short intervals. I find I have to avoid much, that not long since would not have tried my head at all. If my right leg was not a little weak I thing I should go in for a tricycle but I fear to risk it, and I can walk three or four miles pretty well.

I am looking forward to reading the life of Lyell which I have sent for.3 I am curious to see if he described in any way the Meeting at Geological So. when you read your “Corral Island” paper. and he gave in his adhesion to your views at once.4 I well recollect it as it was,—besides the interest in your views being so readily accepted—the only meeting of that Society I ever attended.

We have had a very sick house. one of my daughters and my married daughter and. a niece of my wife here with her husband—Hamond’s eldest son—being all laid up together.5 The latter well enough to go home but our two daughters still unwell the youngest Mrs. Trench. having come after an illness for change. They are however all getting much better.

with our kind regards to Mrs. Darwin and all your party | Believe me | very sincerely yours | B. J. Sulivan


CD was one of the subscribers to a fund established in 1878 by Sulivan and the South American Missionary Society for the support of Cooshaipunjiz (renamed James FitzRoy Button), an orphan grandson of Orundellico (Jemmy Button), at the mission in Ushuaia in the Beagle Channel, Patagonia (Hazlewood 2000, p. 343).
The most recent extant letter from CD to Sulivan is the letter to B. J. Sulivan, 28 October [1881]; he remarked that he was ‘much in arrear with letters’.
Charles Lyell’s sister-in-law Katharine Murray Lyell had published a selection of his letters (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881).
CD had presented a brief outline of his theory of coral reefs to the Geological Society on 31 May 1837 (‘Elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans’). Charles Lyell was highly supportive of CD’s theory that reefs formed around submerged islands, even though it contradicted his own volcanic crater theory (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from Charles Lyell, 13 February 1837, and letter to J. S. Henslow, [28 May 1837] and n. 4). Lyell’s support is mentioned in K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 12. For a detailed discussion of CD’s 1837 paper and Lyell’s response, see Sponsel 2018, pp. 125–44.
Sulivan’s wife was Sophia Sulivan. His married daughter was Catherine Sabine Trench. His two other daughters were Frances Emma Georgina Sulivan and Sophia Henrietta Sulivan. Robert Nicholas Hamond (1844–94) was the eldest son of Robert Nicholas Hamond (1809–83); his wife was Janetta Hamond.


‘Elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans’: On certain areas of elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as deduced from the study of coral formations. [Read 31 May 1837.] By Charles Darwin. Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 2 (1838): 552–4. [Shorter publications, pp. 37–9.]

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

Lyell, Katharine Murray, ed. 1881. Life, letters and journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Sponsel, Alistair William. 2018. Darwin’s evolving identity: adventure, ambition, and the sin of speculation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


BJS is looking forward to reading the life of Lyell [K. M. Lyell, Life, letters and journals of Sir Charles Lyell, 2 vols. (1881)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 316
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13519,” accessed on 10 December 2023,