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Darwin Correspondence Project

From M. I. Snow   29 [November 1872 or later]1

The Down Wood, | Blandford.

⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠m⁠⟨⁠b⁠⟩⁠er 29th.

Dea⁠⟨⁠r⁠⟩⁠ Sir.

⁠⟨⁠Wh⁠⟩⁠en I am playing ⁠⟨⁠o⁠⟩⁠n the piano, and anyone ⁠⟨⁠co⁠⟩⁠mes, and looks over me; ⁠⟨⁠I⁠⟩⁠ am afraid they will ⁠⟨⁠loo⁠⟩⁠k at my hands, and ⁠⟨⁠I⁠⟩⁠ am so afraid of their ⁠⟨⁠being⁠⟩⁠ red that they blush, ⁠⟨⁠though they⁠⟩⁠—were not red [before.]2

When my governess spoke of my hands ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ being long or able ⁠⟨⁠to⁠⟩⁠ stretch, or drew a⁠⟨⁠ttention⁠⟩⁠ to them, they ⁠⟨⁠blushed.⁠⟩⁠ I once said this to ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ I forget who, I think on⁠⟨⁠e⁠⟩⁠ of my governesses, she said “Oh yes, of co⁠⟨⁠urse⁠⟩⁠ everyone blushes in th⁠⟨⁠eir⁠⟩⁠ hands.”

I hope you will not think I am trying to hoax ⁠⟨⁠you⁠⟩⁠ because I could ⁠⟨⁠not⁠⟩⁠ do such a thing, and ⁠⟨⁠w⁠⟩⁠ould be disgusted ⁠⟨⁠at⁠⟩⁠ anyone who did.

Yr. truly | Maria Isabella Snow.

⁠⟨⁠I⁠⟩⁠ used to feel my hands ⁠⟨⁠ge⁠⟩⁠tting redder and redder, ⁠⟨⁠the⁠⟩⁠ more they were looked ⁠⟨⁠at⁠⟩⁠   I say they “used” ⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠ise since I left the ⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠room, I never play ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠, so I have not seen it lately—


The date is established by the fact that this letter is quoted in the second edition of Expression, published in 1890, but not in the first edition (see n. 2, below), and by the likelihood that this letter was inspired by Expression, which was published in November 1872 (Freeman 1977).
In Expression, pp. 314–15, CD remarked that blushing did not normally affect more than the face, neck, and upper part of the chest; he gave one instance of a woman’s hands blushing. The first two sentences of this letter were quoted in Expression 2d ed., p. 333 n. 10, as being from ‘a young lady’. Parts of the damaged text have been restored from his quotation.


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.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


Describes her experiences of blushing on her hands.

Letter details

Letter no.
Maria Isabella Snow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 213
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13842,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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