From Andrew Smith 17 April 1871
16 Alexander Square | Brompton.
17 April 1871
My Dear Darwin
I have tried but in vain to find anything to enable me to state positively that the Hottentots blush—1 if I noticed them to do so I suspect I must have failed to record it. As regards the point however I have no doubt of their being liable under certain circumstances, to experience an increase or diminution of blood in the superficial vessels of the face and if their skins were not too dark and thick they would exhibit what we would designate a blush I can with confidence say I have seen them grow pale when in difficulties or when detected guilty of some impropriety or crime and therefore if what is calculated to [dimish] the blood towards the surface is capable of producing such a condition in the Hottentot we may fairly conclude that what has an opposite tendency, that is to excite a blush in the white man, will do so also in the Hottentot did his colour not prevent it being very visible
I have over and over and over again heard people speak of the pallid condition of the Hottentot when frightened owing to some of his evil practices being detected
I wish I could have stated something more satisfactory on the subject
I think you must have forgotten a fact mentioned to you touching the sagacity or rather I think I may venture to say the reason of the Baboon, which I once say at Grahams Town.2 He was an unfortunate animal chained up in an Officers back yard and had a number of human enemies who used to pelt him with stones Of those one of the most persevering was a Major Taylor3 and one sunday morning as the Major was proceeding to Parade he approached Jacko as usual and the animal knowing what his object was when he began to fill his pockets with stones, poured a basin-full of water, which was by him drink into a hole commenced rapidly in gathering dust &c and casting it into the hole when he mixed the content till the resembled gruel only not in colour. When the Major neared the hole Jacko stuck his paw into the gruel and scattered it beautifully over the Major then he used with great glee his own language to the immense amusement of the bystanders. The parade was for church but the Major could not join as he had white trousers on him and was required to go home and change them before he could appear in public
I think you will admire Jacko’s wisdom and he did so himself for he always rejoiced when ever after he saw the Major who was kind to him from that time forward. I wish I were in better health and more equal to exertion I should take great pleasure in writing you from time to time
Yours most faithfully | And〈rew〉 Smith
On Hottentots’ blushing.
Gives case of a baboon’s revenge. [See Descent, 2d ed. (1874), p. 69.]
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7694,” accessed on 30 September 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7694