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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Bartholomew James Sulivan   27 June 1870


June 27/70

My dear Darwin

I was sorry to see that your health did not allow you to go to Oxford to recieve the honor intended for you, and the almost unanimous expression of feeling with which it would have been accompanied—1 I hope it was merely fear of the excitement, that prevented your going, and not that your health is too bad to take the journey— I foolishly did myself much harm lately by want of care. I had felt better though my head was not well; and I went to town for two or three days returning by Portsmouth to stay two or three days, and see my old friend the admiral,2 there as well as some of the new ships. I returned pretty well and therefore fancied my head was strong enough a few days after to go up to a ball at Buckingham Palace.3 I felt pretty well for the two hours I was talking to old friends & seeing the sights, but when I returned to the hotel could not sleep & by the morning was so ill with pain in the head, fainting feelings &c, that I could hardly stand & with difficulty got to the train the next forenoon to come home, having given my-self a severe shake— I have never been so ill before as I was for some hours. and I have felt the effects ever since. I hope if well enough to go with my wife to see some of our relatives in July and August—

I hope Mrs. Darwin and all your party are well, I think I saw that another of your boys had passed well at Woolwich—4 What a comfort to you to see them all doing so well. My youngest has lately gone into a good City House as clerk, and seems doing well. He lives at Blackheath.5 My youngest daughter was lately married to a Mr. Trench—& is in a fair way I think to a really happy marriage, for he is a fine intelligent, young man who after starting with his relative in the Irish agency line—went cruising over the world for several years: during which he made one journey I think quite new.6 He started in land from Pernambuco. went straight through the Indian Country to the Andes & so reached Lima. He has now a lucrative occupation in Westminster;

I enclose you a prospectus of our small Natural History society lately started here, we hope in time to get up a small museum and Lecture Hall. Mr. Mitchell who came here to work the fossil leaf beds helped to set it going and I hope it will excite some interest that may be lasting.7 Our only Honorary Member yet is Sir C Lyell8—and we should be very glad indeed if you will allow us to add your name. I fear we have not much science of the right sort yet— Mr. Austen9 is our only real geologist I believe, But Mr. Sanders & Mr Baldry10 are both Cambridge men of good position, and thorough ability

The only one of our old party that I have seen for some time is Hamond11 who was here at our wedding. I hear from Mellersh & Usborne12 occasionally. I hope you have followed our movements in Tierra Del Fuego with the Mission, our Missionary—now Bishop of Falklands for the oversight of all South America—(Mr. Stirling) took the bold step of living six months alone with the Natives in Beagle channel (the schooner visiting him twice) to test the safety—and the result decided the Committee to plant a Mission there at once.13 The Natives that had been at Keppel Island though some were scattered & living near the entrance to Murray Narrows—had influence enough to protect him & to take care of his stores & provisions—divided between four or five huts—without losing a thing. He found on the north shore right opposite to the Murray Narrows a nice little peninsula with a good cove & some clear land. & there is to be the station   a clergyman & catechist with their wives and one other assistant are going to live there with some friendly Natives round. They are quite alive to growing potatoes &c and taking care of their goats. and one who with his wife lives at the Murray Narrows has a good garden & goats &c. they keep their house as neat and clean and themselves and children as nicely clothed & clean as Europeans.— Already one shipwrecked crew, though not near there, have been treated kindly by Natives.14

My wife joins me in kind regards to Mrs. Darwin and yourself with all your party.

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


See letter from Robert Cecil, 7 June 1870. The awards of honorary degrees of DCL at Oxford were announced in The Times, 20 June 1870, p. 11. A paragraph at the bottom noted, ‘The name of Charles Darwin, Esq., F.R.S., would have been included in the foregoing list, but he writes that his health is such that he “could not withstand the fatigue and excitement of receiving an honorary degree.’”
The admiral whom Sulivan visited may have been Astley Cooper Key, who left Portsmouth probably in June 1870 after being removed from his post in controversial circumstances (The Times, 11 June 1870, p. 7). On Sulivan’s relationship with Key, see Sulivan ed. 1896.
Sulivan attended the State Ball at Buckingham Palace on 17 May 1870 (The Times, 18 May 1870, p. 11; Sulivan was incorrectly listed as W. J. Sulivan).
Leonard Darwin was at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich; according to The Times, 21 December 1869, p. 12, he had received second prize for mathematics.
Henry Norton Sulivan.
Sulivan refers to Catherine Sabine Sulivan and William Wallace Trench.
The enclosure has not been found. Sulivan refers to William Stephen Mitchell (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 25 December 1866 and nn. 12 and 13).
Charles Lyell.
Presumably Sulivan refers to Robert Alfred Cloyne Godwin-Austen.
Edmund Sandars and Alfred Baldry.
Robert Nicholas Hamond.
Arthur Mellersh and Alexander Burns Usborne.
On Waite Hockin Stirling’s activities in South America, and the mission station at Ushuaia, see F. C. Macdonald 1929.
See Hazlewood 2000, pp. 249–53.


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

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

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.


Tells of his health and family matters.

Congratulates CD on being honoured by Oxford.

Discusses the state of Tierra del Fuego and the success of missionaries there.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 293
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7246,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

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