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Darwin Correspondence Project


From Henry Napier Bruce Erskine to Frances Julia Wedgwood   1 November 1867

My dear Snow1

I dare say you may remember sending me from Down some “queries about expression”1   I wish I could have sent replies likely to be of service but I fear those I now send do not contain a great deal. Two or three times of late I have tried to watch “a row” in passing through the town—but as soon as I got near the “row” subsided into sulks—the fact is natives are seldom natural before Europeans—(except an exception can be made in the case of Europeanized natives)—they are always either trying to please or determined to be sulky! at all events they are always reserved.2

I applied to one or two friends sending them the questions but they all seem to have found much the same difficulties that I experienced— I also tried some native gentlemen but not with much greater success. However it is my all— I can no more!

I suppose your party is all back in London by this time after rusticating in Devonshire— I am sure Hengwrt3 must have spoilt them for commonplace places! it was a delightful place—and I often look back with pleasure to my visit there. Have Effie and Hope kept up their photography?4

I hope this may find all your party well, it is very difficult for me to believe that eight months have not passed since I saw you all— it seems years ago!

I am now at Ahmednuggur a pleasant place and I have a nice house and lovely garden5   I wish you cd. see it now the “poins settia” (I dont know how it shd. be spelt!) is looking so lovely covered with its crimson leaves6—not little shrubs but good sized bushes 10 or 12 feet in height. I am however just on the point of leaving for the Districts to spend the next seven or eight months in tents a sort of life I do not dislike.

I hope Aunt Rich is pretty well—and Lady Inglis too   neither seem as well as one could wish.7 You have doubtless heard of Claude Turnbulls death at Rajkote8   I [had] a line from him not long before written in low spirits and complaining of fever, but I did not apprehend danger. He seems to have been a favourite in his Regt. & they are erecting a monument to his memory

With kind regards to all your party | Ever yr affect cousin | H N B Erskine

1 November /67


Replies to questions about expression received from C. Darwin Esqre.

Quest. 1. Is astonishment expressed by the eyes & mouth being opened wide & by the eye brows being raised?

A. Yes.

Quest. 2. Does shame excite a blush & especially how low down the body does the blush extend?

A. Yes it does, but none of those I have asked have noticed that it extended below the neck, & I have never seen it very decidedly even in the neck.9

Quest 3. When a man is indignant or defiant does he frown—hold his body & head erect square his shoulders & clench his fists.

A. A native gentleman who was consulted answers yes to this but I have doubts. Mr. West the Judge in Canara10 replies “I am not sure that I have ever seen the expression of pure indignation or defiance. It is I think a quivering frown with a slight projection somewhat sideways of the face”

I do not remember ever having seen a native clench his fists—as an Englishman does when angry & excited.

Quest 4. When considering deeply on any subject or trying to understand any puzzle does he frown—or wrinkle the skin beneath the lower eyelids?

A. Mr. West writes. “In trying to comprehend the brows are wrinkled and the mouth closed but not tightly closed. In meditation or the endeavour to recollect the brows are uncontracted, the lips half open the head often a little towards one side.”

A native gentleman remarks. “Yes he does so in looking down—but when looking up while in the act of considering or trying to comprehend or recollect the eyes are kept open the brows raised up & the upper part of the forehead wrinkled”11

Quest. 5. When in low spirits are the corners of the mouth depressed & the inner corner or angle of the eye brows raised by that muscle which the French call the grief muscle?

Ans. All whom I have asked—Native & European agree in replying “Yes” to this—12

Quest 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 at the corners

Ans. Yes.

Quest 7. When a man sneers or snarls at another is the corner of the upper lip over the canine or eye-teeth raised on the side facing the man addressed?

The answer recd. from both Europeans & natives to whom I have written is “Yes” but so far as my own experience goes I do not remember to have seen the upper lip raised in the manner described—

Quest 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?


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

Yes is the reply I have received from all—but I do not remember ever having heard any expiration when expressing contempt—

Quest 10. Is disgust shown by lower lip being turned down—the upper lip slightly raised with a sudden expiration something like incipient vomiting or spitting out of the mouth?

Mr. West says “I have never seen disgust alone expressed   it has always been accompanied by fear or a desire to suppress any sign of emotion” and I must say the same—

A native gentleman answers this in the affirmative—

Quest: 11— Is extreme fear expressed in the same general manner as with Europeans—?

I think so—

Quest: 12. Is laughter ever carried to such an extent as to bring tears into the eyes?


Quest— 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?

Ans.   Mr. West replies “He shrugs his shoulders and lays his hands uncrossed on his breast—”

I have however frequently seen a native when shrugging his shoulders extend outward his hands & open the palms—but I have never seen the elbows turned inwards in the European way—at least not so markedly.13

Quest 14. Do the children when sulky pout or greatly protrude the lips— — —


Quest 15. Can guilty or shy14 or jealous expressions be recognised tho’ I know not how these can be defined?

Mr. West writes “I have recognised guilty & shy expressions but not jealousy”.

A native gentleman writes “When a man feels guilty his countenance is a little darkened & the lips are dried & shrivelled. Shyness is also recognisable”15

None of those to whom I referred have been able to state that they have ever observed jealousy expressed—and I am unable at present to give any hint as to how jealousy is expressed.

Quest— 16— As a sign to keep silent is a gentle hiss uttered?

Ans. Mr. West replies “A sound like “ch” is uttered—whence I suppose comes “chhup” (the Hindustani word for silence)

A native gentleman who saw the above reply wrote “Yes but it is adopted from the English— The genuine native sign to keep silent is made by putting the index finger of the right hand upon the nose with eyes closely shut when the sign is made without anger   when it is made in anger it is accompanied by a frown.”

Quest 17 Is the head nodded vertically in affirmation & shaken laterally in negation?

Mr. West replies “It is slightly nodded vertically in affirmation with a little raising of the outer corners of the eyebrows   Negation is sometimes expressed by a lateral shake but more frequently by throwing the head suddenly back & a little on one side with a click of the tongue”

A Native gentleman writes “Negation is sometimes expressed by shaking the head laterally & sometimes by a click of the tongue. Affirmation is sometimes expressed by a vertical nod but more frequently by throwing the head to the left.”

Among all the wild hill people the throwing back the head with a click of the tongue is alone used so far as I have seen.16

I fear there is not much in the foregoing replies—but as a rule Natives are so much on their good behaviour in the presence of Europeans that the latter have not favourable opportunities for observation— A natives anger or assumed anger bursts out frequently in a torrent of words— the louder he can howl/yell the better he seems pleased— they burst out in this way about the merest trifles—& the squabble seems to end as rapidly as it begun—

31 Octr. 1867 | H N B E

CD annotations

1.1 I dare … sulks— 1.5] crossed blue crayon
1.5 the fact … natives) 1.7] double scored blue crayon
2.1 I applied … difficulties 2.2] scored blue crayon
2.2 I also … more! 2.4] crossed blue crayon
3.1 I suppose … ago! 4.2] crossed blue crayon
5.1 Ahmednuggur] underl blue crayon
5.1 I am … memory 6.5] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘India | 13’ red crayon
Top of enclosure: ‘1’ blue crayon, circled blue crayon; ‘Henry Erskine | India’ pencil
Question 3 and answer: crossed pencil
Question 17, answer: ‘Probably acquired’ added in margin, blue crayon


The letter has not been found. CD had sent out handwritten copies of his queries about expression earlier in the year (see, for example, enclosure to letter from J. P. M. Weale, 27 February [1867]). For a later, printed, version, see Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix IV.
See Expression, p. 21.
Members of the Wedgwood family, including Francis (Snow’s uncle) and Katherine Euphemia (Snow’s sister), stayed at Lindridge, Teignmouth, Devon, in July 1867 (letter from H. E. Darwin to G. H. Darwin, 23 July [1867] (DAR 245: 280)). Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) notes that Francis and Leonard Darwin travelled there on 18 July 1867. Hengwrt, a house at Dolgelly (now Dolgellau) in north-west Wales, had been rented by Snow’s family in the summer of 1865 (Correspondence vol. 13, letter from E. A. Darwin, 24 August [1865], n. 1).
The references are to Katherine Euphemia Wedgwood and Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood, Snow’s sisters.
Ahmadnagar is a city in western central India, east of Bombay (Columbia gazetteer of the world). In the Darwin Archive–CUL there is a later letter from Claudius James Erskine to Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood probably answering a query about the answers to CD’s questionnaire enclosed with this letter: ‘Henry probably wrote from the Ahmednugur District, in the Bombay Presidency— That district in 1867, included several tracts occupied by wild tribes in the neighbourhood of the northern portion of the chain of the Western Ghats—’ (DAR 163: 30).
Poinsettia is a shrub native to Mexico (Euphorbia pulcherrima).
Snow often stayed with Mary Rich, who was her aunt and Erskine’s (B. Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980). Mary Rich lived at this time at 7 Bedford Square, London, the home of her friend Mary Inglis (Post Office London directory 1866, B. Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, p. 287).
The reference is to Claudius James Turnbull. Rajkot is a town in the Sind District of western India (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
See Expression, p. 316
Raymond West was a judge in Canara (now Kanara), a region in the south part of Bombay Province (Columbia gazetteer of the world, Imperial gazetteer of India).
See Expression, p. 33.
Citing Erskine, CD noted that this facial expression was familiar among Indians (Expression, p. 187).
See Expression, p. 268.
On the printed questionnaire (see Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix IV), the word is ‘sly’, not ‘shy’. See also, however, enclosure to letter to J. P. M. Weale, 27 February [1867].
CD cited Erskine’s informant on the expression of shyness among Indians in Expression, p. 332.
See Expression, p. 276.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erskine, H. N. B.
Wedgwood, F. J.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 163: 31–2
Physical description
4pp †(by CD), 8pp †(by CD)


Sends FJW replies to queries about expression.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5663,” accessed on 14 February 2016,