Darwin’s queries on expression

DAR 186 : 1 (click to enlarge)

When Darwin resumed systematic research on emotions around 1866, he began to collect observations more widely and composed a list of queries on human expression. A number of handwritten copies were sent out in 1867 (see, for example, letter to Fritz Muller, 22 February [1867]). The list was printed for ease of distribution sometime in late 1867 or early 1868. Darwin went over his questions, refining them, as we can see from this copy of the printed list with small corrections in Darwin’s hand.

The queries were sent to friends and relations, some of whom had infants (question  14 was about the shape of the mouth in sulky children). But the main impetus was the collection of observations on a global scale. Darwin was especially interested in peoples who had had little communication with European settlers, so that he might gage how far emotional expressions were cultural and conventional, or instinctive and universal. Darwin used his existing correspondence network, and asked that the printed queries be sent further afield, to missionaries, merchants, and travelers who might have encounters with remote peoples. Replies were returned from Australia, New Zealand, Borneo, Malaysia, China, Calcutta, Ceylon, southern and western Africa, North and South America.

 

 

The interactive map shows Darwin’s observational network, with links to the letters on each geographic point where the information came from. In some cases, correspondents wrote from a different location, sending information about countries they had visited after returning home. This information is included in the table (at the bottom of the page), which lists all of Darwin’s correspondents on expression, and the letters containing their replies

The questions are very precise. For example: “(6) When in good spirits, do the eyes sparkle, with the skin a little wrinkled round and under them, and with the mouth a little drawn back at the corners?” Darwin’s questionnaire was an extension of the well-established convention of “notes to travelers” issued by heads of museums or botanical gardens to instruct collectors. But the document was also carefully devised so as to prevent the feelings of Darwin’s remote observers from colouring their descriptions. The observations had in fact already been supplied by Darwin within the body of each question. All that was required by way of response was a simple “yes” or “no.”

Darwin also drew upon James Crichton-Browne's observations of asylum patients (Expression, 1872, p. 296)

Despite Darwin’s precise instructions, however, many of his correspondents found the questionnaire difficult to apply in a colonial setting. The natives in Ceylon, wrote the botanist George Thwaites on 22 July 1868, “all endeavour to drill their countenances so as to express as little emotion as possible before Europeans”. Replies were often more expressive of British sentiments for other peoples or vice versa. The Scottish botanist John Scott wrote from Calcutta, 4 May 1868: “Shame is … expressed by an averted and declined head with a wavering unsteady askant, eye … though indeed I am rather disposed to regard these as indications of fear than shame–the brute-like dread of corporal punishment and not the susceptibilities of a moral nature.”

Darwin did not typically countenance such racist sentiments in his correspondents, and they are part of the politics of emotion that was edited out as he moved from the collection of information to its display in print. After Darwin received all of the replies to his questionnaire, he collated them on a series of separate sheets. Fear, astonishment, disgust, etc., appeared at the head, followed by a list of observers and their answers. Almost nothing from the letters was transferred except “yes” or “no.” “The same state of mind” Darwin would later assert in Expression of the Emotions p. 17, “is expressed throughout the world with remarkable uniformity.”

 

Table of Correspondence about Darwin’s Questionnaire (click on the letter dates to see the individual letters)

We have made all the letters that we could available online ahead of schedule as part of the “Darwin and Human Nature” project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the John Templeton Foundation.

 

Correspondent

Letter date

Location

Notes

Barber, Mary E.

[after Feb 1867]

[Grahamstown, Cape Colony (South Africa)]

nodding vertically

Blair, R.H.

11 July 1871

Worcester College for the Blind, Worcester, England

blushing in the blind

Bowker, J.H.

[10 Dec 1867]

[Cape of Good Hope (South Africa)? ]

mentioned in JPM Weale letter, but Bowker’s answers not found

Bowman, William

5 Aug 1867

5 Clifford St, London, England

infants’ eyes

Bridges, Thomas (b)

[Oct 1860 or after]

[Keppel Island, Falklands]

Fuegians

Brooke, C.A.J.

30 Nov 1870

Sarawak, Borneo

Dyaks

Brooke, C.A.J.

30 April 1871

Sarawak, Borneo

 

Brooke, C.A.J.

30 Nov 1870

Sarawak, Borneo

affirmation/negation

Bulmer, J

13 Aug 1868

[Gipps Land,  nr. Flemington? Australia]

forwarded by Smyth

Gippsland, Victoria Aborigines

Bunnett, Templeton

13 Aug 1868

Echuca, Australia

forwarded by Smyth

Echuca Aborigines

Chaumont, F.S.B.F. de

11 March 1871

Woolston, Southampton, England

letter to W.E. Darwin

shrugging/pouting of children

Crichton-Browne, James

20 May 1869

32 Queen Anne St. Cavendish Square W  London, England

enclosed in a letter from Henry Maudsley

nodding

Crichton-Browne, James

19 May 1869

West Riding Asylum, Wakefield, England

 

Crichton-Browne, James

15 March 1870

West Riding Asylum, Wakefield, England

blushing

Crichton-Browne, James

18 March 1870

Down, Kent, England

blushing

Crichton-Browne, James

3 April 1871

West Riding Asylum, Wakefield, England

blushing

Darwin, Francis

20 June 1867

Unknown?

comments from  A.D. Bartlett and S. Sutton

Darwin, Francis

[before 30 June 1872]

New University Club, St. James’s Street, S.W., London, England

pouting

Darwin, W.E.

[after 29 March 1868]

Chester Place, London, England?

blushing in blind students

Darwin, W.E.

[7? April 1868]

Southampton, England

blushing

Darwin, W.E.

[22? April 1868]

Southampton, England

Langstaff’s observations of blushing

Donders, F.C.

28 March 1871

Utrecht, Netherlands

 

Donders, F.C.

16 June 1871

Utrecht, Netherlands

 

Donders, F.C.

27 May 1870

Utrecht, Netherlands

action of eyelids

Erskine, H. N. B.

1 Nov 1867

[Ahmednuggur, Bombay, India]

 

Forbes, David

26 March 1868

Boulton, England (about Auracania, Peru)

Indian tribes of S. Americas

blushing

Forbes, David

13 June 1870

Portman Square, London W., England (about Auracania, Peru)

sends MS relevant to expressions queries

Foster, Michael

4 June [1871]

Trinity College, Cambridge, England

 

Gaika, Christian

7 July 1867

Bedford [Cape of Good Hope], South Africa

possibly included in letter from Mansel Weale

Galton, Francis

7 Nov 1872

Rutland Gate, London, England

 

Geach, F.F.

June 1867

Johore, Malaysia

sent three letters

Malays Malacca Chinese

Geach, F.F.

April 1868

Johore, Malaysia

 

Geach, F.F.

4 July 1868

Johore, Malaysia

 

Gibbs, George

31 March 1867

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, USA (about Puget’s Sound, Oregon,USA)

N. W. Indians

Glenie, S.O.

22 July 1868

Peradeniya, Ceylon

enclosed in letter from G.H.K. Thwaites

Glenie, S.O.

[July 1868]

Trincomalee, Ceylon

 

Gray, Asa

26 March 1867

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Nile

Gray, Asa

14 April 1871

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Laura Bridgman

Gray, Asa

10 & 14 March [1871]

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

will try to get answers on Laura Bridgman

Gray, Asa

9 May [1869]

[Alexandria, Egypt]

nodding in affirmation

Gray, Jane

9 May [1869]

[Alexandria, Egypt]

possibly included in letter(s) from Asa Gray

Nile

Gray, Asa

8 & 9 May 1869

Florence, Italy (about Nile)

half sheet enclosed by Jane Gray about expression

Green, Mrs

 

[Coranderrk Station, Australia]

forwarded by Muller

Haast, J.F.J. von

12 May – 2 June 1867

Christchurch, New Zealand

doesn’t answer queries but includes list of men he forwards it to

Haast, J.F.J. von

4 Dec 1867

Christchurch, New Zealand

includes enclosure from Revd J Stack, Maori Missionary Kaipoi

blushing and shame

Hagenauer, F.A.

[12 Sept 1867]

Lake Wellington, Australia

letter to F.J.H. von Mueller

nodding, gentle hiss

Hagenauer, J.A.

13 Aug 1868

Flemington, Australia

forwarded by Smyth

Wellington Gippsland Victoria Aborigines

Hawkshaw, Cicely Mary (to ED)

9 Feb 1868

Liphook, Hampshire, England

observations of baby’s tears

Hooker, J.D.

5 Sept 1868

Kew, London (about Nagasaki, Japan)

will forward query

Huxley, H.A.

22 Mar [1867]

Abbey Place, London, England

letter to Emma Darwin

baby expression

Kempson, L.F.

20 June 1867

Penmaenmawr, Conway, Wales

letter to Emma Darwin

infant daughter

King, P.G.

25 Feb 1869

Sydney, Australia

Aborigines

Lacy, Dyson

[before 13 Aug 1868]

[Queensland, Australia]

Queensland Aborigines

Lane, H.B.

13 Aug 1868

Belfast,  Australia?

forwarded by Smyth

Belfast, Victoria Aborigines

Lang, Archibald G.

13 Aug 1868

[Coranderrk, Australia]

forwarded by Smyth

Coranderik Victoria aborigines

Lubbock, E.F.

[1867-8?]

Lombard Street, London?

 

Matthews, Washington

 

Unknown?

Smithsonian Tetons Grosventres Mandans Assinaboines

Maudsley, Henry

20 May 1869

32 Queen Anne St. Cavendish Square W, London, England

Enclosed letter from Dr. C. Browne

Meyer, A.B.

25 April 1872

Manila, Philippin Islands

nodding

bending head forward

Mivart, G.J.

26 Jan 1871

North Bank, London, England

blushing

Muller, Ferdinand

 

Unknown?

astonishment

Muller, Fritz

22 Feb [1867]

Down, Kent, England

 

Muller, Fritz

15 Aug [1867]

Down, Kent, England

CD sent query about crying in monkeys, references Rengger and Humboldt, who he cites in Expression, p. 137

Muller, Fritz

30 Jan [1868]

Itajahy, Santa Catharina, Brazil

 

Nicol, Patrick

13 May 1870

Sussex Lunatic Asylum, Haywards Heath, England

 

Paget, James

9 July 1867

1 Harewood Place, Hanover Square W., London, England

astonishment

Reade, Winwood W.

23 May 1868

Conservative Club, London? (about Gabon, Africa)

 

Reade, Winwood W.

17 Jan 1869

Sierra Leone, Africa
(about Gold Coast tribes)

nodding

Reade, Winwood W.

28 June [1869]

Sierra Leone, Africa

 

Reade, Winwood W.

26 Dec 1869

Sierra Leone, Africa (about Jollofs tribe of Senegambia)

 

Reade, Winwood W.

[c.8 or 9 Apr 1870]

Accra, West Coast of Africa

 

Reade, Winwood W.

4 June 1870

Lagos, Africa

astonishment in Croboe

Reade, Winwood W.

3 Sept 1870

Conservative Club, St James’ St, London, England

 

Reade, Winwood W.

9 Nov 1870

11 St Mary Abbot’s Terrace, London, England

blushing

Reade, Winwood W.

1 Feb 1871

11 St Mary Abbot’s Terrace, London, England

 

Reade, Winwood W.

7 Sept 1872

11 St Mary Abbot’s Terrace, London, England

extracts from Carl Johan Andersson, Lake Ngami (1856) on expression

Reade, Winwood W.

5 Nov 1872

13 Alfred Place, Bedford Square, London, England

women and W. Africans

Rejlander, O.G.

[1871]

Victoria Street, London, England?

notes on wife’s expressions

Rothrock, J.T.

31 March 1867

McVeytown [Pennsylvania], USA (about Atnah and Espyox Indians of Nass River, British Columbia, Canada)

forwarded by Asa Gray

Atnah Espyox Nasse

vertical nodding

Scherzer, Karl Von

20 Oct 1868

Ministry of Commerce, Vienna, Austria

will include queries in expedition to East Asia

Scott, John

4 May 1868

Royal Botanic Gardens, Calcutta, India

 

Scott, John

2 July 1869

Royal Botanic Gardens, Calcutta, India

vertical nodding

Smith, Andrew

1 Feb. 1871

11 Saint Mary Abbot’s Terrace, Kensington. W., London, England

enclosed in letter from W. W. Reade

Hottentots and Kaffirs

Smith, Andrew

17 April 1871

16 Alexander Square, Brompton, London

Blushing in Hottentots

Smyth, R. Brough

13 Aug 1868

Flemington, Australia

Melbourne Aborigines

Speedy, J.

29 Sept 1868

Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England (about Abyssinians of Ethiopia)

Abyssinians Theodore

Stack, James West

4 Dec 1867

Christchurch, New Zealand (about Kaiapoi, New Zealand)

forwarded to CD by J.F.J. von Haast

Maoris

Sulivan, B.J.

11 Jan 1867

Bournemouth, England

passing query to others

Sutton, Seth

8 Aug 1867

Zoological Gardens, Regents Park, London

expressions in Chimpanzees and Orangs

astonishment

Swinhoe (Consul)

 

Unknown?

Chinese

Swinhoe, Robert

4 Aug 1868

British Legation, Peking, China

Chinese

Swinhoe, Robert

5 Aug 1867

Amoy, China

 

Swinhoe, Robert

14 March 1871

33 Oakley Square, London, England

Ningpo

Taplin, George

 

Unknown?

forwarded by Smyth

Macleay aborigines

Thwaites, G.H.K.

1 Apr 1868

Peradeniya, Ceylon

 

Wallace, A. R.

2 March [1867]

9 St. Mark’s Crescent, N.W., London, England

talks about forwarding queries and answering later

Wallace, A. R.

11 March [1867]

9 St. Mark’s Crescent, N.W., London, England

 

Walsh, B.D.

25 March 1868

Rock Island, Illinois, USA

says he won’t respond to query

Weale, J.P.M.

7 July 1867

Bedford, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Kafir, Hottentot

Weale, J.P.M.

[10 Dec 1867]

Bedford, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Kaffirs

Weale, J.P.M.

23 Oct 1868

Bedford, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Kafir girls

Weale, J.P.M.

[25 May 1870]

Bedford, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa?

 

Weale, J.P.M.

[Jan 1873]

Bedford, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa?

kafir, hottentot

astonishment

Wedgwood, F.J.

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England?

 

Wedgwood, F.J.

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England?

shame in ancients

Wedgwood, F.J.

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England?

girl at Lock Hospital

Wedgwood, F.J.

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England?

Macrobius’ Saturnalia

Wedgwood, F.J.

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England

Expression, p. 273 n. 17

extract from Charma

nodding

Wedgwood, Hensleigh

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England?

laughter

Wedgwood, Hensleigh

[1867-72]

1 Cumberland Place, London, England?

“brown study”

Wedgwood, Sarah E to ED

[30 March-12 April 1868]

London, England?

“brown study”

Weir, J.J.

27 June 1870

Blackheath, London, England

expressions in birds

West, Raymond

1 Nov 1867

Canara (now Kanara), Bombay, India

forwarded by H.N.B. Erskine

Wilson, Edward

8 Nov 1867

Hayes, Bromley, Kent, England (about South Australia)

enclosure not found

Wilson, Edward

19 Feb 1868

Hayes, Bromley, Kent, England (about Australia)

encloses letter from Austrialian friend, letter not found

Wilson, Edward

22 Feb 1868

Hayes, Bromley, Kent, England (about Victoria Australia)

encloses photo

he will send query around

Wilson, Edward

14 Oct 1868

Hayes, Bromley, Kent, England (about Australia)

encloses further replies from Australia

Wilson, Samuel

12 Nov 1867

Longerenong, Wimmera, Victoria, Australia

forwarded by Smyth; Wilson sent letter to Ferdinand von Mueller

Victoria Aborigines