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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alexander Shaw to Marion Bell   27 November 1868

40 West Abbey Road | Kilburn | N. W

27 Novr 1868

My Dear Marion

Will you inform Mr Darwin that the Footnote in the 3d Edn. of the “Expression”, referring to the “Nervous System” p. 175, has reference to Sir Charles’ Work—“On the Nervous System of the Human Body” &c. 3d Edn. 1835.1

The Introductory Chapter of the 2nd Edn. of the “Expression” (1824), having the sub-title “Some account of the Nerves, as a foundation for the Study of Expression”— is the one thro’ which Sir Charles had drawn his pen, when preparing the work, shortly before his death, (1842), for a third Edition.2

From his leaving the title untouched, it was evident that he intended to re-write the Essay on the Nerves: And in my rashness, I thought that I could supply a substitute: Whence my Essay in the Appendix, of the 3d Edn. in 1844.3

In 1847, when there was a re-issue of the work, I took the opportunity of Amending my Essay.4

In 1860, I gave a similar, yet different, Account of the discoveries—to be prefixed to the 6th Edn. of the “Hand.”5 Imperfect as that may be, I look on it as a decided improvement on what I had furnished for the “Expression” in 1847.

Accordingly, when Bohn, about three years ago, was in treaty about the last Edn. of the “Expression”, I wished to remodel and Amend my Essay—so as to make it bear more on the subject of the work. But he would not give me time.6

I would have Amplified the topics at the bottom of p. 23. and top of p. 24.7 And I wd have said something about Beauty in the Face bearing relation to the forms best adapted for Voice, and for Expression.

That may come forth some other day—-When I have not so much else to do.

Yr. Affte | Alex Shaw.

CD annotations

1.2 ‘On … 1835.’ 1.3] double scored blue crayon
4.1 In 1847 … Essay. 4.2] double scored blue crayon


Shaw refers to works by Charles Bell, the third edition of The anatomy and philosophy of expression as connected with the fine arts (C. Bell 1844) and the third edition of The nervous system of the human body: as explained in a series of papers read before the Royal Society of London (C. Bell 1836). Shaw had edited Bell’s works after his death. CD used C. Bell 1844 as his main authority on anatomy associated with facial expression. There is an annotated copy of C. Bell 1844 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 47–9).
See C. Bell 1824, pp. 1–12.
See C. Bell 1844, pp. 231–58.
See C. Bell 1847, pp. 231–68 (‘Appendix. On the Nervous system. By Alexander Shaw’).
Shaw refers to the sixth edition of The hand: its mechanism and vital endowments, as evincing design (C. Bell 1860; for Shaw’s preface, see pp. xi–xxxv).
Henry George Bohn published the fifth edition of The anatomy and philosophy of expression as connected with the fine arts (C. Bell 1865). Shaw’s appendix was the same as in C. Bell 1847.
Shaw refers to C. Bell 1860, pp. xxiii–xxiv, in which the development of organs of locomotion, prehension, and mastication in animals and humans is briefly discussed.


Asks MB to forward information to CD regarding works dealing with expression, in particular refers to Sir Charles Bell’s work The nervous system [3d ed. (1836)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Alexander Shaw
Marion Bell
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 146
Physical description
4pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6480,” accessed on 21 April 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16