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Darwin Correspondence Project

To B. J. Sulivan   20 December [1870]1

Down | Beckenham | Kent S.E.

Dec. 20th

My dear Sulivan

I thank you cordially for your very kind letter of congratulation & for your interesting news.2 All my sons are an infinite satisfaction & none of them have ever given me an hour’s uneasiness.— My third son has just passed his examination at Cambridge for Natural Sciences, but he was unfortunate & tells me that he has done very badly & will be very low.—3 I had not heard of Lieut Musters’s surprising Journey: no doubt I shall see some account in Journal of Geograph. Socy.4 As for myself I keep much as usual, always ailing & grumbling, but able to do some hours work daily. I have lately been working rather too hard in the intolerably tedious labour of correcting the proofs & making uncouth English rather less uncouth for my new book on man, which will disgust you & many others.—5 It is now nearly done, otherwise it wd. have done for me; for my strength is at a very low ebb.—

It is enough to make one boil over with indignation to hear of the negligence & indifference of the Admiralty in sending your son to the coast of Africa.—6 If you go to Southampton again, do call on my son William: :7 he said he intended to call on you, if he went to see the Langtons at Bournemth.8

We are all fairly well. With kind remembrances to Lady Sulivan.9 Ever | My dear Sulivan | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from B. J. Sulivan, 17 December 1870.
Francis Darwin took third place in first class honours in the natural sciences tripos at Cambridge University in 1870 (The Times, 19 December 1870, p. 6).
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 17 December 1870 and n. 5. CD refers to George Chaworth Musters. His paper was not published in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society.
CD refers to Descent.
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 17 December 1870. CD refers to Thomas Edward Sulivan.
William Erasmus Darwin was a banker in Southampton.
CD refers to Charles, Edmund, and Emily Caroline Langton.
Sophia Sulivan.


Thanks BJS for his congratulations [on Leonard Darwin’s success].

CD is "as usual, always ailing and grumbling".

Expects his new book [Descent] to "disgust you & many others".

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. 7400,” accessed on 11 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18