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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. P. M. Weale   [10 December 1867]1

On the mountain top here I have discovered Pelargonium Bowkeri Harv: hitherto only known in the Transkeian country.2 This & various other observations lead me to believe that these inland mountain spurs detached mountain tops & valleys are islands of a former coast flora & fauna, but I will say more of this towards the conclusion.

I have received some answers from Mr. J H Bowker to your questions.3

A Kafir4 on being asked whether he thought East London was as fine a place as King Williamstown made a distinct “Achg!” like incipient vomiting, far more distinctly than any European could.5

Kafirs when in grief place their hands especially the women on their heads. They likewise do so to express surprise. They also place one hand on the chin & mouth in grief.

While in the magistrate’s court a short while ago I observed Christian Gaika listening attentively to a Kafir case. His chin was stretched forward & his forehead wrinkled up with the eyes rather prominent & directed forward & upward towards the witness box.

I had occasion whilst in Kafir land6 to chastise a servant, who had care of my horse for allowing the headstall to be stolen. Although not guilty himself I am convinced he knew who had taken it.

The women give way to grief very violently but not for a very long period. I noticed this the case of a young woman, Goondoo, who died from catching cold after child birth from gastric fever. Her sister Umfazi wept copiously; but as she, Goondoo, was very delirious before death none of the women would nurse her, but placed food in the hut.

You speak sanguinely about the civilization of the natives, & the fact that Christian Gaika can write.7 This appears to me an error into which most people in England fall, & I trust you will not think it unnecessary if I make some comments thereon.

Although by no means desirous of running down Missionary work, I must own that in my opinion their teaching is to little effect.

The principles on which they work—excepting always the Moravians & some others8—is almost purely an appeal to the emotions, & the longer a Kafir has been on a Mission Station the worse servant he is.

There is little or no attempt at inculcating by precept & habit either industry or economy. I have had occasion to visit some of the stations—one conducted by a very kind hearted & well meaning man, as far as I could see the Revd. Mr. Philip of Hankey9—& I

CD annotations

1.1 On … conclusion. 1.5] crossed blue crayon
2.1 I have] after opening square bracket red crayon
7.1 The women … & I 11.4] crossed blue crayon
First page: ‘19’ added brown crayon
End of letter: ‘J. P. Mansel Weale 10th of December 1867’ ink


The date is established by CD’s annotation.
Weale lived in Bedford, Cape Colony, South Africa (letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867). The Transkeian territories were also in Cape Colony; they bordered the Indian Ocean north-east of the Kei river (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
In his letter of 7 July 1867, Weale informed CD that he had sent CD’s queries about expression to James Henry Bowker and others. Bowker’s answers have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. He is not cited in Expression.
For the nineteenth-century use of the term ‘kafir’, see the letter to J. P. M. Weale, 27 February [1867], n. 3.
East London is a city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. King William’s Town, thirty miles west-north-west of East London, was capital of the province of British Kaffraria until 1865. (Columbia gazetteer of the world.)
Kafir land: i.e. British Kaffraria, now part of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
See letter to J. P. M. Weale, 27 August [1867] and n. 5. For Christian Gaika’s answers to CD’s queries about expression, see the enclosure to the letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867.
On the high regard in which the South African Moravian missionaries were held in the nineteenth century, see, for example, Groves 1948–58, 2: 130, 251.
Thomas Durant Philip. Hankey is in the Eastern Cape Region of South Africa near Port Elizabeth (Times atlas).


Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

Groves, C. P. 1948–58. The planting of Christianity in Africa. 4 vols. London: Lutterworth Press.

Times atlas: ‘The Times’ atlas of the world. Comprehensive edition. 9th edition. London: Times Books. 1992.


On expression among Kaffirs.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Philip Mansel Weale
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 42
Physical description
AL inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5722,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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