skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   17 December 1870


Decr. 17./70

My dear Darwin

I must tell you how glad I was today to see that your son had come out second for Engineers at Woolwich, thus rivalling his brother at Cambridge.1 It must be a great comfort to you and Mrs. Darwin to see one after the other doing themselves such credit. I hope it is an earnest of a splendid career for him in that fine Corps, which leads to so many opportunities of distinction both in the military and Civil Services.

I hope you are still pretty well, and all your party quite well. I went to Southampton a few weeks since to see a family off by steamer, and I called at the Bank to see your son2 but he was not in.

We were very glad to make the acquaintance of Mr. & Mrs. Langton, and of his father also;3 they have had the worst weather I ever saw in Bournemouth but they keep very well.

I saw our old shipmate Usborne4 when passing through Plymouth lately, he has been getting up small steamers to run up & down the harbour and I crossed with him in the “Beagle”— He desired to be kindly remembered to you.

Did you see the account of Lt Musters—(a nephew of Hamonds & our poor little shipmate) having made a years journey with the Patagonians from South to North, going round by the Andes.5 At the Geographical they thought he was the first European that had been there: but our German catechist of S. A. Mission spent a year going over the same ground about nine years since.6 I hope Musters had the means with him of fixing positions; he had been out in the River Plate looking after some sheep farm that he started when serving on the station

Our second son7 who came home so ill last year with fever from Mediterrean went out some months since to join a ship on Coast of Africa. I suppose because the Doctors who invalided him reported that he ought not to be sent to a station where he would be liable to fever for three years. As he wanted a sea going ship of course he did not like to refuse it, but it showed utter indifference on the part of our Naval head-man. The eldest8 last week was in a harbour ship at Plymouth when a Lieut was wanted at an hours notice to join a ship just starting for China—so he volunteered for the sake of getting to sea

With our kind regards to Mrs. Darwin and all your party believe me | very sinly yours | B. J. Sulivan


Leonard Darwin’s commission in the Royal Engineers was announced in The Times, 17 December 1870, p. 12. He had the second highest marks among candidates commissioned into the Royal Engineers. In 1868, George Howard Darwin had come second in the final examination for the mathematical tripos at Cambridge University (see Correspondence vol. 16).
William Erasmus Darwin.
Sulivan refers to Edmund, Emily Caroline, and Charles Langton.
Alexander Burns Usborne.
George Chaworth Musters’s paper on his travels in Patagonia, read at the Royal Geographical Society on 15 November 1870, was reported in The Times, 17 November 1870, p. 12. He was the nephew of Charles Musters, volunteer 1st class on the Beagle, and of Robert Nicholas Hamond, midshipman on the Beagle (see Burke’s landed gentry and Correspondence vol. 1, Appendix III). Charles Musters died of fever at Rio de Janeiro in 1832. For G. C. Musters’s account of his journey, see Musters 1871.
The South American Missionary Society of London was founded in January 1868; before that it had been the Patagonian Mission of Clifton (F. C. Macdonald 1929, p. 67). The German catechist was Theophilus Schmid.
Thomas Edward Sulivan.
James Young Falkland Sulivan.


Burke’s landed gentry: A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain and Ireland enjoying territorial possessions or high official rank but unvisited with heritable honours. Burke’s genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry. By John Burke et al. 1st–18th edition. London: Henry Colburn [and others]. 1833–1969.

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

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.

Musters, George Chaworth. 1871. At home with the Patagonians: a year’s wanderings over untrodden ground from the Straits of Magellan to the Rio Negro. London: John Murray.


Congratulations on Leonard Darwin’s success at Woolwich Academy.

Mentions the current activities of his own sons and of some old acquaintances.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 295
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7395,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

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