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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Bartholomew James Sulivan   24 May [1861]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S. E.

May 24th

My dear Sulivan

Many thanks for the Mendoza account which I have been glad to see.2 It seems to have been one of the worst earthquakes on record.— It is very strange, as the Chili earthquakes, even that of Concepcion was not even felt at Mendoza.—3 Many thanks, also, for your last note about the Geese’s nests:4 I suppose I was falsely informed

FitzRoy was so kind as to send me the last London Review (which I intend to take in) & I read the article on Genesis.—5 I cannot say that it at all satisfied me. Almost any statement & fact can be reconciled by stretching the statements & facts; & this seemed to me the case throughout the article.— But I am weary of all these various attempts to reconcile, what I believe to be irreconcileable.

With many thanks | My dear Sulivan | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The year is provided by the reference to ‘the Mendoza account’ (see n. 2, below).
The city of Mendoza, in western Argentina, was completely destroyed by an earthquake and the fire that resulted on 20 March 1861. The French naturalist Pierre Joseph Auguste Bravard was among the 10–12,000 victims (EB). The precise account mentioned in the letter has not been traced.
CD had personally experienced the severe earthquake that occurred along the coast of Chile in February 1835 (see Correspondence vol. 1, letters to WDFox, [7–11] March 1835, and to Caroline Darwin, 10–13 March 1835). He described its physical effects in Journal of researches, pp. 368–81.
The letter has not been found.
Robert FitzRoy had been captain on the Beagle voyage on which both CD and Sulivan served. The article referred to appeared in the ‘Special supplement’ of the London Review and Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Art and Society issued on 18 May 1861. The fifth part of the series ‘Seven answers to the seven Essays and reviews’, the article was entitled ‘Answer to the fifth essay.— Mosaic cosmogony—genesis & geology—science vs. revelation’ (London Review 2: 585–92). The reference was to the fifth essay of Essays and reviews, ‘On the Mosaic cosmogony’ (Goodwin 1860). Quoting a paragraph from chapter 9 of Origin, which described the fragmentary and imperfect condition of the geological record, the anonymous author stated that it was ‘more reasonable and probable’ to suppose that scientists have erred in their interpretation rather than that the revelation of Scripture is wrong. The article concluded with comments on the geology of Patagonia, in which both CD and FitzRoy’s observations were mentioned.


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

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Essays and reviews. London: John W. Parker. 1860.

Goodwin, Charles Wycliffe. 1860. On the Mosaic cosmogony. In Essays and reviews. London.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Thanks BJS for account of Mendoza earthquake.

FitzRoy sent CD the last London Review [& Weekly J. Polit.] and he read the article on Genesis, but feels it is an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable.

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3156,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9