From Alexander Shaw to E. A. Darwin 22 March 1867
40, West Abbey Road, | (Kilburn) N.W.
22nd March 1867
Dear Mr Darwin
I send you by my Sister Lady Bell’s wish, a copy of this Essay, written now some years ago. It is avowedly on the Nervous System: but it contains a view of the development of the Animal Kingdom, in illustration of Sir Charles Bell’s Classification of the Nerves, which she seems to desire to commend to your notice.1
From observing the distinctions in the origins and course of the Nerves, in Man, Sir Charles Bell was led to divide all those of the Brain and Spinal Cord into two Classes—one common to the lowest and highest animals—the other gradually introduced in correspondence with the successive changes of structure that the Respiratory organs—confined, at first, to the simple office of oxygenating the blood— undergoes in adapting it, in the highest animals, to the perfectly distinct office of producing Vocal Sounds.2
The way in which I have traced, through the Animal Series, the rise and progress of the different sets of parts subject to the two classes of nerves, had not been thought of by Sir Charles Bell. But the train of observation has conducted me to the conclusion—that the supremacy of the organization of Man depends on the Structure of his Mouth, rather than on the perfection of his Hands: or, otherwise, that the nobility of his frame is derived from his possessing, in his Face, a perfect organ of Voice, Speech, and Expression, in correspondence with his great endowment, his Mind.3
I am | Very faithfully Yrs | Alex. Shaw.
Erasmus Darwin Esqr.
At the request of his sister, Marion Bell, he sends a copy of his essay on the nervous system. It contains a view of the development of the animal kingdom in illustration of Charles Bell’s classification of the nerves. Human powers are held to be more dependent upon the structure of the mouth than that of the hand.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5454A,” accessed on 25 August 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5454A