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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Richard Owen   28 April [1850]

Down Farnborough Kent

Ap. 28th.

My dear Owen.

I have received a letter from Capt. Sulivan at the Falkland Isls. 1 expressing his continued desire & zeal to collect fossil Bones on the coast of Patagonia, if he can get a vessel. He wants to know whether there is any prospect of one being sent him. Are you willing to remind Sir F. Beaufort?2 Years may pass before such a chance again occurs of having a most zealous individual so near at hand knowing actually where there are bones.— Sulivan specifies November as the best month for the purpose: he says the Captain must have distinct orders to assist him: he would go to Gallegos3 first; St Julians for the Macrauchenia & other likely places & even Bahia Blanca: it wd take about 6 weeks.— he requires no remuneration for himself.— I have no doubt without you are prepared to give a flapper4 & get orders sent out to the Admiral of the Station, all will be forgotten;—whether you think this worth while, I know not.— I shall write to Sulivan at once; but if you see or hear from Sir F. Beaufort & can give any answer, whether favourable or not, will you please let me hear, that I may inform Sulivan, as he begs to hear.— Failing a King’s Ship; he asks whether any Societies or Government wd aid him to amount of £150 or 200£; for with this sum he cd get a Sealer to take him; but I feel assured this is hopeless,—at least as far as Societies are concerned.— Sulivan says, & I am sure truly, that he cannot afford this sum himself.

I have to thank you much for sending me a note some time since, which I could show to Mrs. Dixon,5 if I went to Worthing; but travelling is so fatiguing to me, that it is not worth my while to go such a journey for a single species, which is all that I w〈ant〉 urgently.— Perhaps you will be so 〈kind〉 if you have occasion to communicate with Mrs Dixon, to ask her whether she has found & would lend me, a linear shell, named Xiphidium angustum & figured Pl. XXVIII fig. 9.6

I certainly do wish much to see it; but not sufficiently to take me such a journey. How I hope that your Lectures7 will be published, of which you sent me the prospectus;

Yours my dear Owen very truly | C. Darwin


Bartholomew James Sulivan had taken a three-year leave from the Navy late in 1848 and settled in the Falklands with his family. Owen had previously identified fossils that had been collected by Sulivan in South America (see Correspondence vol. 3, letters to Richard Owen, 21 [June 1846] and [24 February 1849]).
Hydrographer to the Admiralty.
Sulivan had discovered mammalian fossils at Rio Gallegos during his Falkland surveys of 1842–6. See South America, p. 117, and Correspondence vol. 3, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845. CD had found fossils at St Julian and Bahia Blanca.
‘A person who arouses the attention or jogs the memory; a remembrancer. Also … a reminder’ (OED).
The widow of Frederick Dixon. Dixon had collected and described cirripedes with other fossils of the Sussex formations. See F. Dixon 1850 and Sowerby and Sowerby 1812–46, vol. 7, cited in Fossil Cirripedia (1851): 37–8.
Xiphidium angustum, a synonym for Scalpellum angustum. CD apparently did not obtain a specimen from Mrs Dixon but relied on James de Carle Sowerby’s drawing of it in F. Dixon 1850 (Fossil Cirripedia (1851): 37–8).
The reference is probably to the Hunterian Lectures of 1850, ‘On the generation and development of vertebrate animals with prefatory remarks on vertebræ’ (R. S. Owen 1894, 1: 356). The lectures were not published.


Discusses possibility of providing B. J. Sulivan with a vessel for fossil hunting in Patagonia.

Asks RO to ask Mrs Dixon about borrowing cirripede specimen.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Richard Owen
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1322,” accessed on 19 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4