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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. K. Thwaites   1 April 1868

Peradeniya | Ceylon,

1st April | 1868

My dear Darwin,

I will do my very best, be assured, to get the information you want.1 I have put your printed list into the hands of several persons, but without any good result so far.2 I have also directed the attention of persons having to do with working elephants to the question as to whether these animals do really shed tears when in distress.3

With regard to the monkey, I know of no tame ones in this immediate neighbourhood—that is of the bearded “wanderoo” & I have only seen single ones in confinement. In the jungles I have observed them at play—family parties, I fancy—but never fighting.4

I have had no opportunity of seeing natives under the influence of emotional feeling except in the case quite lately of a Cinghalese5 woman who had just lost her husband—(a gardener under my orders)—& who came to announce his death to me and to beg me to allow her to continue to occupy the house she & her husband had been living in. The woman threw herself about & made a great blubbering & howling, but her countenance indicated no genuine grief in its expression, and there was a perfectly apathetic look between the paroxysms.

I have got quite into the habit of observing the expression of natives faces as I meet them, & really there is usually very little expression at all even when they are talking together, but there is sometimes slyness & sometimes vindictiveness very evidently indicated and just as it would be exhibited in an English face, as it appears to me. But does one not observe the same in dogs, horses & other animals?

Always very sincerely yr’s | G. H. K. Thwaites

I write this in haste as I have some preparations to make this evening for an early start into the jungles tomorrow.


See letters to G. H. K. Thwaites, 31 January [1868] and 13 February [1868].
In his letter of 31 January [1868], CD had enclosed copies of his printed queries on expression (for a copy of the queries, see Correspondence vol.16, Appendix V).
In his letter of 13 February [1868], CD asked Thwaites to observe whether the hair of bearded monkeys in captivity protected them from the bites of other monkeys.


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


Has circulated CD’s Queries about expression and gives some of his observations of the natives.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Peradeniya, Ceylon
Source of text
DAR 178: 123
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6080,” accessed on 2 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16