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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. P. M. Weale   27 February [1867]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb. 27th,

Dear Sir

Since writing to you about a week ago,2 it has occurred to me that you wd. perhaps grant me a great favour; namely to forward, & back up with your own influence, the enclosed queries on Expression to any capable & trustworthy observer, who associates with Hottentots or Caffres. I am sending these queries to all parts of the world, for I am much interested in the subject, & shd. be grateful for any however small information.3

Anyone who wd. keep the subject before his mind for 2 or 3 months, would easily observe some of the points.—4 Pray excuse me begging this favour & do what you can to aid me.—

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


Queries about Expression

(1) Is astonishment expressed by the eyes & mouth being opened wide, & by the eyebrows being raised?

(2) Does Shame exite a blush when the colour of the skin allows it to be visible? Especially how far down the body does blush extend?

(3) When a man is indignant or defiant does he frown, hold his body & head errect, square his shoulders & clench his fists?

(4) When considering deeply on any subject or trying to understand any puzzle, does he frown, or wrinkle the skin beneath the lower eyelids?

(5) When in low spirits are the corners of the mouth depressed & the inner corner or angle of the eyebrows raised & contracted by that muscle which the french call the grief muscle?

(6) When in good spirits do the eyes sparkle, with the skin round & under them a little wrinkled & with the mouth a little drawn back in the corners?

(7) When a man sneers or snarls at another, is the corner of the upper lip over the canine teeth raised on the side facing the man whom he addresses?

(8) Can a dogged or obstinate expression be recognised, which is chiefly shown by the mouth being firmly closed, a lowering brow & a slight frown?

(9) Is contempt expressed by a slight protrusion of the lips & turning up of the nose with a slight expiration?

(10) Is disgust shown by the lower lip being turned down, the upper lip slightly raised, with a sudden expiration something like incipient vomiting?

(11) Is extreme fear expressed in the same general manner as with Europeans?

(12) Is laughter ever carried to such an extreme as to bring tears into the eyes?

(13) When a man wishes to show that he cannot prevent something being done or cannot himself do something, does he shrug his shoulders, turn inwards his elbows, extend outwards his hands & open the palms?

(14) Do the children when sulky pout or greatly protrude the lips?

(15) Can guilty, or sly, or jealous expressions be recognised—though I know not how these can be defined?

(16) As a sign to keep silent is a gentle hiss uttered?

(17) Is the head nodded vertically in affirmation, & shaken laterally in negation

Observations on natives who have had little communication with Europeans would be of course the most valuable, though those made on any natives would be of much interest to me.

General remarks on expression are of comparatively little value.

A definite description of the countence under any emotion or frame of mind would possess much more value; & an answer within 6 or 8 months or even a year to any single one of the foregoing questions would be gratefully accepted.

Charles Darwin

Down, Bromley, Kent | 1867

P. S. Memory is so deceptive in subjects like these that I hope it may not be trusted to.


The year is established by the date of the enclosure.
Letter to J. P. M. Weale, 22 February [1867].
Weale lived in Cape Colony (now the Eastern Cape province of the Republic of South Africa). In the nineteenth century, the term ‘Caffre’ or Kafir was usually used to refer to some groups of the Xhosa people of south-eastern Africa, while ‘Hottentot’ was usually used to refer to peoples of south-western Africa (the Khoikhoi); for nineteenth-century uses of the terms ‘Hottentot’ and ‘Caffre’, see Stocking 1987, Dubow 1995, and S. J. Gould 1997.
Weale enclosed one set of replies to the queries with his letter of 7 July 1867. See also letter from M. E. Barber, [after February 1867].


Encloses his queries about expression which he asks JPMW to forward to trustworthy observers who associate with Hottentots and Kaffirs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Philip Mansel Weale
Sent from
Source of text
University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, Darwin Evolution Collection (3314)
Physical description
2pp, encl 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5422,” accessed on 27 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15