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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Bartholomew James Sulivan   18 March [1864]1

Tregew Roehampton | SW

March 18.

My dear Darwin

You will be surprised to hear that my wife2 and I start on Tuesday next for a four months ramble through France, Italy & Switzerland returning by Rhine if all goes well.

For some time my head has been very shaky, and about two months since I felt it right to have a Medical opinion as to going on working my heart. I was told that I had gone on at least two years too long, that I must cease all work instantly and if possible try the effect of six months rest before deciding whether to give up my appt or not.3 I had been convinced for some time that there was something wrong about the heart; and the Dr. said that the fault was there. The action being so defective and the circulation so weak that it did not send blood enough to the brain to nourish it properly.

The Govt very liberally gave me six months leave, and appt another officer to do my work for that time. I have been some weeks at Brighton where the Doctor is—and have been waiting in England in hopes of seeing my second boy4 who was returning home after three years in West Indies. He is now paying off at Sheerness and will be home tomorrow—so we shall see him for two or three days.

You will be sorry to hear that Padeby Stewart died at Plymouth last week.5 only three months since I was saying to Usborne6 how very unusual it was to find all our Beagle party (that is the executives) alive and well after 33 years; and now two are gone   Wickham was apparently in perfect health & sitting in the room with his wife when he started up with his hand to his head & fell dead in an instant.7

I hope you have kept pretty well lately and that Mrs Darwin and all your party are well.

My wife joins me in very kind regards.

Believe me dear Darwin | Yours very sincerely | B. J. Sulivan


The year is established by the reference to the death of John Clements Wickham (see n. 7, below).
Sulivan worked at the Board of Trade; his most recent known letters to CD reported that he would probably soon be taking command of a squadron on the west coast of South America, despite his poor health (see Correspondence vol. 11, letters from B. J. Sulivan, 4 February [1863] and 10 February [1863] and n. 3). The post was ultimately given to a more junior officer (Sulivan ed. 1896, pp. 377–8).
‘Padeby’ was probably a nickname for Peter Benson Stewart, mate of the Beagle during the 1831 to 1836 voyage; he had since become an inspecting commander of the coastguard (O’Byrne 1849).
Alexander Burns Usborne was the master’s assistant on the 1831 to 1836 Beagle voyage (see Correspondence vol. 1, Appendix III). In 1864, he was a staff-commander of the Royal Navy (Navy list).
John Clements Wickham was the first lieutenant on the 1831 to 1836 Beagle voyage. He had retired to the south of France in 1862, and died of a stroke on 6 January 1864 (Aust. dict. biog.).


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. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.


Has six months’ leave from the Admiralty because of his health; intends going to Europe for four months.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 282
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4431,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12