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Darwin Correspondence Project

To B. J. Sulivan   6 January [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan. 6th

My dear Sulivan

I was glad to see your hand-writing. I heard of your dreadful loss & sincerely sympathised with you, as I know what it is to lose a child, though not one in the prime of life.2 Pray give our joint very kind remembrances to Lady Sulivan.—3

I am very glad to hear so good an account of the Fuegians, & it is wonderful; but your little missionary pamphlet does not tell much.—4 I hope that your health is somewhat improved & you ought to have told me something about it.—5 I cannot say much for myself & I feel the more disappointed, as I have lately been under Dr Clarke’s care & thought that his diet was going to do wonders for me, but it was an illusory hope.—6 I feel very old & helpless, but am able to work a few hours daily at science. Oh those were fine days in the old Beagle.7

Farewell | my old friend | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from B. J. Sulivan, 5 January 1874.
Sulivan’s son, Thomas Edward Sulivan, died in January 1873 (see letter from B. J. Sulivan, 5 January 1874 and n. 1). Two of CD’s children died in infancy (Mary Eleanor and Charles Waring), and his daughter Annie died at the age of ten.
Sophia Sulivan.
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 5 January 1874 and n. 2. CD refers to the mission in Tierra del Fuego; the pamphlet from the South American Mission Society has not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Sulivan had last mentioned his health in a letter of 20 June 1872 (Correspondence vol. 20). At the time he noted that his head was constantly improving.
CD probably began consulting Andrew Clark around August 1873 (Correspondence vol. 21, letter from Andrew Clark, 3 September 1873); he had recommended Clark to his son George Howard Darwin in April 1873 (Correspondence vol. 21, letter to G. H. Darwin, [3 April 1873]). Clark was known for his belief in the connection between illness and diet and for his diet-based treatments (ODNB).
Sulivan had served as lieutenant during the Beagle voyage from 1831 to 1836.


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

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Thanks BJS for the missionary pamphlet and his good account of the Fuegians.

Is under the care of Andrew Clark, and feels "very old & helpless".

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. 9229,” accessed on 8 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22