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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Julius von Haast   27 February [1867]1

Down Bromley Kent

My dear Dr Haast

I have thought that you might know some Missionary, protector2 or colonist who associates with the Natives any where in N. Zealand & who wd at your request oblige me by making a few observations on their expression of countenance when excited by ⁠⟨⁠va⁠⟩⁠rious emotions. Perhaps you might have some opportunity yourself of observing. I should be most grateful for any, however small, information, & I enclose some queries for this purpose. You must not take much trouble but I believe you will aid me if you can. I have sent copies of these queries to various parts of the world for I am greatly interested on the subject.3

I hope your geological investigations continue to be as interesting as they have hitherto been.4

Believe me | my dear Dr Haast— | yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Feb 27th.—


Queries about Expression.

1. Is astonishment expressed by the eyes and mouth being opened wide and by the eye-brows being raised?

2. Does shame excite a blush, when the colour of the skin allows it to be visible?

3. When a man is indignant or defiant does he frown, hold his body and head erect, square his shoulders and clench his fists?

4. When considering deeply on any subject, or trying to understand any puzzle, does he frown, or wrinkle the skin beneath the lower eyelids?

5. When in low spirits, are the corners of the mouth depressed, and the inner corner or angle of the eyebrows raised by that muscle which the French call the “Grief muscle”?

6. When in good spirits do the eyes sparkle, with the skin round and under them a little wrinkled and with the mouth a little drawn back?

7. When a man sneers or snarls at another, is the corner of the upper lip over the canine teeth raised on the side facing the man whom he addresses?

8. Can a dogged or obstinate expression be recognized, which is chiefly shewn by the mouth being firmly closed, a lowering brow and a slight frown?

9. Is contempt expressed by a slight protusion of the lips and turning up of the nose, with a slight expiration?

10. Is disgust shewn by the lower lip being turned down, the upper lip slightly raised, with a sudden expiration something like incipient vomiting?

11. Is extreme fear expressed in the same general manner as with Europeans.

12. Is laughter ever carried to such an extreme as to bring tears into the eyes?

13. When a man wishes to show that he cannot prevent something being done, or cannot himself do something, does he shrug his shoulders, turn inwards his elbows, extend outwards his hands, and open the palms?

14. Do the children when sulky, pout or greatly protrude the lips?

15. Can guilty, or shy,5 or jealous expressions be recognized?—though I know not how these can be defined.

16. As a sign to keep silent, is a gentle hiss uttered?

17. Is the head nodded vertically in affirmation and shaken laterally in negation?

Observations on natives who have had little communication with Europeans would be of course the most valuable, though those made on any natives would be of much interest to me.

General remarks on expression are of comparatively little value.

A definite description of the countenance under any emotion or frame of mind would posess much more value, and an answer within 6 or 8 months or even a year to any single one of the foregoing questions would be gratefully accepted.

Memory is so deceptive on subjects like these that I hope it may not be trusted to.

Down, Bromley, Kent

Ch Darwin



The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Julius von Haast, 12 May – 2 June 1867.
Protector (of aborigines): an official post established in 1840 to look after Maori interest vis-à-vis Europeans and abolished in 1846 (Dictionary of New Zealand English).
Haast was provincial geologist for Canterbury province, New Zealand, and mentioned his geological work briefly in his letters to CD of 17 July 1866 and 8 September 1866 (Correspondence vol. 14).
‘Shy’ is a copyist’s error for ‘sly’ (see Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix IV).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Dictionary of New Zealand English: Dictionary of New Zealand English. A dictionary of New Zealandisms on historical principles. Edited by H. W. Orsman. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press. 1997.


Asks JvH’s assistance in making observations on the expression of emotions. Encloses 17 queries that are being sent to various parts of the world.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Francis Julius (Julius) von Haast
Sent from
Source of text
Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand (Haast family papers, MS-Papers-0037-051-3)
Physical description
LS(A) 2pp, encls 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5423,” accessed on 11 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15