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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Cuthbert Collingwood   16 February [1866]

Down | Bromley Kent

Feb 16

Dear Sir

I am sorry that the state of my health & your short time will prevent us meeting.1 You have my cordial good wishes for your health & success in every way. As I do not know the Malay Arch. or coast of China I have no special suggestions, nor indeed any general ones of any novelty; but I may mention a few points which I shd myself especially attend to if I were going myself on the expedition. Enquire after & search any caverns in the Malay Arch. for fossil bones & all recent deposits for the same.2 If you have the means nothing wd give more valuable results than deep sea dredging in the Tropics.3 If you ascend any moderately lofty Mts. & are acquainted with glacial action, it wd be well to observe on this subject.4 If you fish in open ocean for minute surface animals, look out for seeds, & attend to all occasional means of distribution.5 Domestic animals have generally been neglected by travelling naturalistss. Their history, peculiarities, & care taken in breeding them ought to be attended to.6 I may add one little point which I have been surprised has been so rarely noticed, viz. are the gestures & expression of countenance under various emotions with real savages the same as with us?7

With my repeated good wishes, | I remain dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


Collingwood had asked CD for suggestions on his forthcoming work as naturalist aboard a ship on the China Sea (see letter from Cuthbert Collingwood, 15 February 1866).
Recent discoveries of fossils and human bones in caves had thrown new light on environmental conditions and species distribution during the Quaternary period (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 March 1864 and n. 18). Collingwood reported exploring various caves during his expedition, but not the recovery of bones or fossils (Collingwood 1868, pp. 86, 123, 233).
CD was probably interested in deep-sea dredging in connection with the imperfection of the geological record. CD had contended that many organisms would not become fossilised at the bottom of the sea in the Malay Archipelago, where he believed conditions to have been similar to those of a former European archipelago (Origin, pp. 299–300). Later in 1866, Collingwood dredged to a depth of approximately sixty fathoms in the China Sea, recovering sponges, branching corals, members of the genera Comatula and Gorgonia, zoophytes, tunicates, shells, nymphons (sea spiders), crabs, a new species of nudibranch, and various foraminiferous organisms (Collingwood 1868, pp. 125–7).
Glacial action was on CD’s mind in early 1866, partly as a result of Louis Agassiz’s reported finding of evidence of former glaciation in Brazil (see, for example, letter to Charles Lyell, 15 February [1866]). CD substantially altered the section on glacial action in Origin 4th ed., pp. 442–56, on which he worked between March and May 1866 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix II) and Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 591–610). Collingwood 1868 did not include information on glaciation.
CD had addressed long-standing questions concerning the dispersal of seeds by water or ice in recent correspondence (see, for example, the letter to Charles Lyell, 15 February [1866] and n. 6). Collingwood 1868 did not include information on this subject.
CD included information on domestic animals in the first chapter of Origin; the subject was of central importance to his research for Variation, on which he continued to work in 1866 (see CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 14, Appendix II)); however, Collingwood 1868 did not include information on the subject.
This is one of the earliest extant letters requesting information for Expression. See also Expression, pp. 15–17. Collingwood later sent CD a copy of the published account of his expedition (Collingwood 1868), in which social aspects of the life of indigenous peoples were described, but not human expression. For earlier correspondence on human expression, see, for example, Correspondence vol. 8, letter from Thomas Bridges, [October 1860 or after], and Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862] and n. 8. For the scope of CD’s earlier interest in human expression, see, for example, Notebooks, and his observations of his infant son, William (Correspondence vol. 2).


Regrets that his health prevents their meeting, but offers some suggestions for the expedition to the Malay Archipelago and coast of China: the search of caverns in the Malay Archipelago for fossil bones, deep sea dredging in the tropics, glacial action in any moderately steep mountains, means of geographical distribution, the history of domestic animals in these regions, and gestures and expressions of real savages as compared with our civilised expressions. [See 5008 and 5011.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Cuthbert Collingwood
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 96
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5008B,” accessed on 20 May 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14