skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. P. M. Weale   27 August [1867]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Aug 27

My dear Sir

I thank you cordially for all your kindness.2 The case of the Muraltia, which you describe & figure so clearly is very curious; & I quite agree with you, the case is especially curious in the resemblance of the movement of the stamens to those in papilionaceous plants. I doubt whether the movement, at least in the latter, is due to irritability, nor is it a case of simple elasticity. The resemblance of your Muraltia to a heath, of which I believe there are other cases at the Cape is curious.3 I have formerly examined, but with no great care, our English Polygola4 & convinced myself that its fertilization depended on insects.

You have been extremely kind in taking such great trouble about expression, which is a subject that interests me to an unreasonable degree. That I shd receive answers written by the brother of a Kaffir chief is a truly wonderful fact in the progress of civilization.5

Thank you for telling me about the children pouting,—a gesture which I hear from N. America is common to Indian children.6 I shall be most grateful for any further trustworthy information. I believe the French are quite wrong in speaking of a “grief muscle”; the movement apparently results from a combined action of the upper orbicular & that part of the frontal muscle which is seated above the inner angle of the eyebrows.7 I enclose a poor photograph of a young woman who cd voluntarily make this movement;8 but the eyebrows are hardly oblique enough; the transverse wrinkles on the forehead which extend only a short distance on each side of the centre are eminently characteristic; as is a slight swelling close above the inner end of the eyebrow. I shd be very glad to hear whether this expression can be seen in any savage race. The only chance wd be visiting a person in anxiety or grief.

When I recd the locust-dung I cd not imagine what it was, & I might have gone on guessing till doomsday. I will try the experiment carefully, but shall be as much surprized as interested if it shd prove to contain any seeds.9

With very sincere thanks | I remain my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867.
Weale had sent CD’s handwritten set of queries on expression to several people in the Cape Colony (see letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867 and n. 5.
Weale’s observation on the resemblance of Muraltia to a heath was evidently in the section of his letter that was later excised (see letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867 and n. 13).
Polygala and Muraltia are both members of the family Polygalaceae (milkworts; characterised in Lindley 1853 as an order) in the order Fabales.
Weale enclosed answers to CD’s set of queries on expression written by Christian Gaika, whom Weale described as a brother of Chief Sandile (see letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867 and n. 6).
CD may refer to information from Joseph Trimble Rothrock on children of tribes living in the Nass river area of western British Columbia, Canada (see letter from J. T. Rothrock to Asa Gray, 31 March 1867).
CD introduced the phrase ‘grief-muscles’ to refer to the combined action of these muscles (Expression, p. 181; see letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867 and n. 7).
The enclosure has not been found, but see Expression, p. 180 and Plate II, figure 3 (facing p. 178) for the published version of the photograph.
Weale had enclosed a packet of locust dung with his letter of 7 July 1867. For the results of CD’s experiments, see the letter to Asa Gray, 16 October [1867].


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

Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.


CD finds the case of Muraltia with irritable stamens curious.

Thanks JPMW for his help with expression queries and would be grateful for any more information. Believes the action of the so-called "grief muscles" is a result of combined action of two muscles.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Philip Mansel Weale
Sent from
Source of text
University of Virginia Library, Special Collections (3314 1: 48)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5617,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

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