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Darwin Correspondence Project

To B. J. Sulivan   1 December 1881

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

Dec 1st. 1881

My dear Sulivan

I am ashamed to say that I have utterly forgotten what my subscription is, & send 2£.2s.0 on the chance of its being right.—1 If not enough please send me a P. card & the remainder shall be at once transmitted.—

Judging from the Missionary Journal, the Mission in Tierra del Fuego seems going on quite wonderfully well.—2 I am sorry that you cannot give a better account of your household.—3 I am fairly well, but feel very old. I wish that I could follow your advice & be idle, but I find myself miserable, without having some daily work.—

We are reading Lyells life, or speaking more strictly his Letters.4 Many of them interest me much; but the book wd. have been much improved in my opinion by being shortened. I doubt whether the general public will stand so many letters. Your memory is far more vivid than mine, for I have forgotten everything about my paper at the Geolog. Soc.—5

My dear Sulivan | Yours ever sincerely | Charles Darwin


See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 29 November 1881 and n. 1. CD initially proposed to subscribe £1 annually, but from 1879 had sent £2 (see Correspondence vol. 26, letter to B. J. Sulivan, 22 April 1878; Correspondence vol. 27, letter to B. J. Sulivan, 15 October 1879; and Correspondence vol. 28, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 16 November 1880).
A description of the mission at Tierra del Fuego appeared in the South American Missionary Magazine, 1 November 1881, pp. 249–55, and a report on the successful fund-raising for the mission was published in ibid., 1 December 1881, pp. 285–6.
Charles Lyell’s sister-in-law Katharine Murray Lyell had published a selection of Lyell’s letters, and had sent CD a copy (K. M. Lyell ed. 1881; letter to K. M. Lyell, 20 November 1881).
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 29 November 1881 and n. 4. In a note on this letter, Sulivan recalled the events at the Geological Society of London when he attended with CD in 1837: ‘I was with him after Beagle returned when he read his paper on Coral Islands which was accepted at once as settling that much disputed question: Lyell who was in the chair rose and strongly supported and praised it, and gave up all views he had held on the subject before | B.J.S.’


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


Sends his subscription for the adopted Fuegian [James FitzRoy Button].

Feels very old and wishes he could be idle but finds himself miserable without any daily work.

Is reading Lyell’s biography [K. M. Lyell (1881)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Sent from
Source of text
Sulivan family (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13525,” accessed on 9 August 2022,