skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   13 February [1868]1


Feby. 13.

My dear Darwin

As Mr Stirling has sent me the recpt. you may as well have it with the Photo of the four Fuegian boys which he wishes me to send you in case you have not seen it. He expresses his great pleasure at your aiding us.2

The upper face is the lad from Packsaddle Bay, and he seems to show the most intelligence. The one below is Jemmy Button’s son   I thought I saw a distinct likeness to his Father and he had the most amiable face of them all. The one on their right hand, a nephew of Jemmy’s—and the one on the left, the little orphan boy without either Father or Mother who from the first showed a great attachment to Mr Stirling & asked him to be his Father3

I have sent your note about “Johnny Rooks” as they are called there to Stirling by the last mail4 As you are so interested in all relating to the Tame animals seen wild at Falklands. I think you may like to hear a fact about the horses if I have not told you it before. There were two wild stallions each with his small troop of mares in the hills over Port William—and it is quite certain that they never would have been near each other without fighting— The young English Horse I took out was running under those hills with eight mares, & several times these wild horses had singly tried to fight him for his mares—but he was more than a match for either of them. One day these two came in together and attacked him.5 our Capitain saw it from the house and when he rode to the spot one horse was keeping our horse engaged while the other was driving away the mares and had got four of them away from the rest— The man settled it by driving the whole party into our Corral for the wild ones stuck to the mares: but when lassoing one of them they broke through the corral & escaped.

Does it not seem as if they had some means of agreeing to be friends for the time & to attack the strong stranger jointly— The worst part of it was that one carried off a new small lasso of mine round his neck & was never seen again   most probably he was choaked by the end of the lasso catching in the stones among the hills.

with kind regards to Mrs. Darwin | Believe me | Yours very sincerely | B J Sulivan

CD annotations

1.1 As … mail 3.2] crossed pencil
3.2 As] after opening square bracket pencil
3.5 and it is … fighting— 3.6] double scored pencil; ‘This is sole important point’ pencil


The year is established by the reference to the receipt for CD’s donation to the South American Missionary Society (see n. 2, below). The receipt would have been sent from Tierra del Fuego or the Falkland Islands.
Waite Hockin Stirling was superintendent missionary for the South American Missionary Society, responsible for Tierra del Fuego. A donation of £5 to the ‘Fuegian mission’ is recorded in CD’s account book for 6 February 1867 (CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS)). Stirling had taken four Yahgan boys to England in August 1865; the boys were returned in 1867. See Correspondence vol. 14, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 25 December 1866.
The photograph sent to CD is at Down House in Kent and has been reproduced as the plate facing p. 114 in this volume. The four boys were Uroopa, Mamastugadagenges, Sesoienges, and Wammestriggins. The boy from Packsaddle Bay in south-eastern Tierra del Fuego was Sesoienges. Wammestriggins was a son of Orundellico, known to the British as Jemmy Button; Orundellico had been brought to England in 1830 and returned in 1833 on the Beagle (see Correspondence vol. 1). The orphan boy was Mamastugadagenges. For more on the Yahgan people and the British missions to Tierra del Fuego, see Macdonald 1929 and Hazlewood 2000.
CD’s note has not been found. Johnny Rook is the local Falkland name for Phalcoboenus australis, the striated caracara (see Woods and Woods 1997). CD had remarked on the birds’ tame behaviour in his Journal of researches, pp. 66–8, under the name Polyborus Novae Zelandiae.
CD quoted this passage in Descent 2: 241 as illustrating the general tendency of male animals to engage in fierce battles. Sulivan had resided in the Falklands from 1848 to 1851.


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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Hazlewood, Nick. 2000. Savage. The life and times of Jemmy Button. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

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.

Macdonald, Frederick C. 1929. Bishop Stirling of the Falklands. The adventurous life of a soldier of the cross whose humility hid the daring spirit of a hero & an inflexible will to face great risks. London: Seely, Service & Co.

Woods, Robin W. and Woods, Anne. 1997. Atlas of breeding birds of the Falkland Islands. Oswestry: Anthony Nelson.


Sends photo of four Fuegians, including Jemmy Button’s son.

Reports incident of two wild stallions on the Falklands acting together in an attempt to take a troop of mares from an introduced English horse [see Descent 2: 241].

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 83: 188–9, DAR 177: 291
Physical description
ALS 5pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5873,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16