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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hensleigh Wedgwood [1867–72]1

1 Cumberland Place, | Regent’s Park. N.W.

My dear Charles

I am afraid I can throw no light on any of your queries A brown study sounds like a modern expression. It has an odd coincidence with the old French embruns or embrun, which signifies exactly the same thing, absorbed in thought.2 I should think that shaking hands is not so much a rudimentary embrace as a remnant of giving the hand in token of good faith, “Theres my hand upon it”. A bet according to boys tradition requires the sanction of shaking hands. This explains handfestning (in Old Swedish) the promise of fidelity which a subject makes to her prince, or an engagement of marriage with the hand given in token of fidelity

Old Norse handa band, the joining of hands as solemn confirmation of a concluded agreement; handfesta, to confirm in such a manner, to assure by joining hands.

I do not know the paper to which you refer and am much obliged for the reference

Ever yours | HW.

Footnotes

The date range is established from the fact that the content of the letter relates to CD’s work on expression (see n. 2, below). CD was working on expression with a view to publishing between 1867 and 1872.
CD used the phrase ‘in a brown study’ for abstraction and meditation in Expression, p. 228. See also second letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [1867–72].

Summary

On origin of hand-shaking.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-7041
From
Hensleigh Wedgwood
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Cumberland Place, 1
Source of text
DAR 181: 53
Physical description
3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7041,” accessed on 24 June 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7041

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20

letter