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Letter 7386

Brooke, C. A. J. to Darwin, C. R.

30 Nov 1870


Encloses a few answers [not found] to CD’s queries on expression. Continues to observe the expressions and habits of the Malays, Dyaks, and Saribus tribes [See Expression, pp. 21, 209].



Novbr 30th /70

Dear Sir/

Altho’ three years have passed since I recd yr note accompanied by the 17 queries about expressionsf1—since then I have been a year in Europeor I should have sent a reply before—as I have never lost sightof observing the countenances of the people—more particularlythe Dyaks of Sakarang and Saribus tribes—f2 From Malays I think littleoriginality can be expected as they are early tutored in conductingthemselves in an orthodox Mahomedan Code— for instances—whenseated on a mat receiving, or visiting a stranger, the feet are not to beshown—they are doubled up underneath—the hands clasped one onthe other—not to show the palms—body slightly stooping & headinclined downwards—eyes looking down— in being surprised, they slowlymove their heads to & fro with out expressing any remark—Their customs are brought from other parts more than derived from theirfore fathers— I enclose a few answers to yr queries—andregret they are not more complete—

I have lately forwarded afemale Maias to the Taunton Museum—f3 I believe a perfect specimen—tho’ not large & found in the Rejang river some little distancefrom Si Munjau & Batang Lupar where Mr Wallace & Signor Brecariobtained their specimensf4

If I can be of any service in obtaining a few natural specimensI shall be happy to do my best—

I am | Dear Sir | Yrs faithfully | C Brooke

Peculiarities of Dyaks

1. Astonishment is expressed by open eyes, general swinging ofbody & beating of hands on the Chestf5 (this beating of Chest isparticularly done by women, sometimes when pleased), calling out“Ake Indai”(oh! Mother.)

2. Shame has rather the effect of producing paleness, the same asanger. Natives say under such feelings they feel the blood drawnfrom their face.f6 Red eyes are supposed to be a sign of fiercenessor rage when they speak of the face as hot as fire— Young menshow rage by blustering & talking loud, move their bodies andswing their arms about. I can’t say I have discovered perceptibleblushes—

4. They show thought by contraction of muscle about the face witha solemn look as when interpreting dreams or omens by the soundsof good or bad birds.

5. When in low spirits, I could never see the corners of theireyes or mouths were altered— they feel acutely, and in mostinstances let their feelings have full play in grief, even to theenjoyment of it.

6. In good spirits, the eyes perceptibly lighten,f7 and theirexpressions brighten; women put their hands before their mouthsto hide them, when laughing.

7,8, 9 & 10. Dogged expression is fixity or rigidity ofcountenance & look of sternness (sneering or snarling is notoften resorted to). Contempt is shown by a slight smile & insilence—f8 disgust is expressed (particularly by Malays) byspitting out the word “Pōēh” or Po-he. Dyaks often utter a gutteralsound and say ‘Baka Jelū’ (like a beast). They also utter asound like ‘Esh’, showing contempt, and the word ‘Cheh’ or ‘Eh’from the throat expresses disbelief or equivalent to nonsense,humbug, &c. These sounds I think a stranger would find it impossibleto pronounce as natives, as the ‘h’ is so thrown away from the mouth—

11. Extreme fear is plainly discernable by the generalcontortions of face, moving of hands, quivering of eyelids,downcast look & muscular irritability.

12. Laughter sometimes brings tears, the eyes nearly closed, theysay they nearly make water from laughter, a common expressionamong the female sex.f9

13. A man considering he could not do something or preventanything being done, would not trouble himself & would say he wasnot clever or lucky.

14. Children protrude their lips when sulky—f10 & put their fistsin their mouths & stare as if in rage before generally crying.

15. The guilty, cunning or jealous show marks of their feelingsin their countenances to quite as great an extent as Europeans.

16. The Dyak word for Silence is ‘Diau’—They do not ‘hiss’ toexpress it.

17. Affirmation & negation are not expressed by movements ofhead, a look from their expressive eyes & slight contraction ofbrow denotes negation, lifting the brow that of affirmation.f11

To | Charles Darwin, Esqre | &c &c &c.

DAR 160: 322, 322/1



CD sent his list of queries on expression to Brooke in March 1867, with a letter that has not been found (see Correspondencevol. 15, letter to A. R. Wallace, 7 March [1867] and n. 2). For a list ofCD’s queries (he sent slightly different versions over time), seeAppendix IV; see also Expression, pp. 15–16.
During the nineteenth century, the term Dyak was often applied toany indigenous people of Borneo (Roth 1896, 1: 39–43). The Dyakpeople presently comprise Sarawak’s largest group of indigenouspeople, and include the Iban (formerly called Sea Dyaks; Kaur 2001). Roth 1896, 1: 38, listed the ‘Skerang Dyaks’ as living on the(Batang) Lupar River, and the ‘Sarebas’ people as living on the Sarebasand Rejang rivers. On the Saribas Iban, see D. Freeman 1981, pp. 5–10;the Skrang Iban are mentioned on p. 8.
‘Maias’ or ‘Mias’ is the Dyak word for orang-utan (R. B. Freeman andGautrey 1972, p. 216). The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) wasthen based in Taunton, and in 1874 would move into Taunton Castle,Somerset (http://www.sanhs.org). Brooke sent several zoologicalspecimens to the society (Simon Jones, SANHS, personal communication). Brooke was born in Somerset.
Alfred Russel Wallace referred to the Simunjon (or Simunjan) Riveras a small branch of the Sadong River; these lay south-south-west ofthe Batang-lupar, or Lupar River (see Wallace 1869a, 1:46). The area is in the southern, or south-western portion of Sarawak. The Rejang (or Rajang) River to the east isthe longest river of Sarawak (Columbia gazetteer of the world). Brooke alsorefers to the Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari.
CD cited Brooke for this information in Expression, p. 279.
CD quoted Brooke’s account in Expression, p. 318, n. 12.
See Expression, p. 213.
CD cited Brooke for this information in Expression, p. 255.
CD wrote: ‘I hear from the Rajah C. Brooke that it is a commonexpression with [Dyak women] to say “we nearly made tears fromlaughter’” (Expression, p. 209).
See Expression, p. 233.
CD cited Brooke for this information in Expression, p. 275; seealso p. 277.
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