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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.


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

Dixon, Frederick. 1850. The geology and fossils of the Tertiary and Cretaceous formations of Sussex. London.

Fossil Cirripedia (1851): A monograph on the fossil Lepadidæ, or, pedunculated cirripedes of Great Britain. By Charles Darwin. London: Palaeontographical Society. 1851.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Owen, Richard Startin. 1894. The life of Richard Owen … With the scientific portions revised by C. Davies Sherborn; also an essay on Owen’s position in anatomical science by the Right Hon. T. H. Huxley, F.R.S. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.

Sowerby, James and Sowerby, James de Carle. 1812–46. The mineral conchology of Great Britain; or, coloured figures and descriptions of those remains of testaceous animals or shells, which have been preserved at various times and depths in the earth. Vols. 1–4 by James Sowerby; vols. 5–7 continued by J. de C. Sowerby. London.


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 (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1322,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

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