skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. W. Smartt to Willie[?]   3 January 1873


3 January 1873

〈M〉y dear [Willie],1

We have a man at present in the Workhouse named Patrick Walsh an Idiot, who has the extraordinary power of apparently chewing his cud—2 I have seen him 〈m〉yself on more than one occasion regurgitating food from the stomac〈h〉 into the mouth about fif〈teen〉 minutes after it was take〈n〉 and repeat the process of deglutition & throwing ba〈ck〉 the food five or six times in the space of ten minutes.

The stomach of man in the natural state is a simple pouch, but in peculiar cases I con〈jecture〉 there is a second pouch caused probably by some 〈ir〉regularity in the distribution 〈o〉f the circular & longitudinal muscular fibres of the stomach— If the unfortunate man should die I would make an application for permission to make a post mortem examination 〈fo〉r in no other way could a satisfactory explanation of this wonderful case be given—

with kindest regards to all | Believe me to remain | Very Sincerely yrs. | F. W. Smartt

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘Man chewg the cud | Idiot’ blue crayon


Willie has not been identified.
Patrick Walsh has not been further identified; his case was cited in Expression 2d ed., p. 271 n. 11, in CD’s discussion of whether the progenitors of modern humans could vomit voluntarily.


Expression 2d ed.: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. Edited by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1890.


Reports the case of an idiot in his care who apparently chews his cud.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis William Smartt
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 181
Physical description
4pp damaged †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8721,” accessed on 22 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21