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Darwin Correspondence Project

To B. J. Sulivan   31 December [1866]1

Down Bromley | Kent

Dec 31

My dear Sulivan

I sincerely rejoice that you are able to give a some what improved account of your health, & I hope it may continue improving.2 Your letter has interested me exceedingly all about S. America & the Fuegians. I never thought the latter cd have been civilized, but it appears that I shall be proved wrong. I wish poor Fitz-Roy was alive to hear the result of his first attempt for the civilization of the Fuegians.3

Do you know Mr Stirling4 well enough to ask him to grant me a great favour? Namely to observe during a few months the expression of countenance under different emotions of any Fuegians but especially of those who have not lived much in contact with Europeans, & to take the trouble to write me a letter on the subject.

It is an old hobby-horse of mine on which I am very curious, & on which I have vainly sought for information. I will write a few questions on a separate piece of paper, & if you can oblige me you might send it to Mr S. with the request that he wd hereafter write to me by address on the paper.—5

I have written to Hooker about the fossil leaves; he fully appreciates their value but says he has no time to work at them.6 He agrees with me that they wd be of much more service for science in the hands of Prof. Heer of Switzerland than in those of any other man in Europe. If you are inclined to send a collection to him, Hooker wd find out the best means, but as he remarks, the specimens would require much trouble in packing.7

I am glad to hear so capital an account of yr younger son,8 & I shd think he wd be sure to get a scholarship at Cambridge. It was my 2nd son George, & he was first in Mathematics at Trinity.9

My health is very much improved, & this is wholly due to diet & to riding daily, but I am never quite well for 24 hours10   Nevertheless I have just sent off to the printers a great bundle of M.S for a book on “domestic animals”.11

Again I must thank you for your very interesting letter, & with our very kind remembrances to Mrs Sulivan12 believe me my dear Sulivan | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from B. J. Sulivan, 25 December 1866.
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 25 December 1866 and n. 5. Robert FitzRoy had been dismayed to see the reversion of Jemmy Button to his ‘uncivilised’ state when the Beagle stopped in Tierra del Fuego in 1834 (Browne 1995, pp. 268–9). For CD’s reaction to the encounter with Jemmy Button, see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Catherine Darwin, 6 April 1834. FitzRoy died in 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13).
The enclosure has not been found, but the questions were probably similar to the questions listed in the letter to Thomas Bridges, 6 January 1860, and to later questionnaires (see Correspondence vol. 15). CD received answers in 1867 to the questions that he had sent to Thomas Bridges via Stirling (see Correspondence vol. 8, CD annotations to the letter from Thomas Bridges, [October 1860 or after], and Correspondence vol. 15, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 11 January 1867).
Sulivan had offered to send fossil leaves to Joseph Dalton Hooker (see letter from B. J. Sulivan, 25 December 1866).
For more on CD’s health, see the letter to W. D. Fox, 24 August [1866] and n. 5.
The reference is to the manuscript of Variation, all but one chapter of which CD had recently sent to his publisher, John Murray (see letter to John Murray, 21 and 22 December [1866]).


Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin. Voyaging. Volume I of a biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thanks BJS for his account of S. America and the Fuegians.

Can BJS ask W. H. Stirling to make observations on expression?

Has asked Hooker about the fossil leaves, and he suggests they be sent to Oswald Heer.

Has just sent MS on domestic animals [Variation] to the printer.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Sent from
Source of text
Sulivan family (private collection)
Physical description
LS(A) 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5330,” accessed on 20 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14