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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. W. Reade   21 May [1868]1

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

May 21st

Dear Sir

I thank you for your extremely kind letter.—2 I have long been much interested on Expression in man & animals, & I have sent enclosed queries to various parts of the world.3 I have received only a few answers, chiefly from Australia, & none in regard to true Negroes.—4 You may, therefore, believe, how truly obliged I shd feel for answers even on one or two points alone.— But you will find observation (at least all others have found it so) difficult in the extreme. Sympathy makes even hardened surgeons forget the subject at the moment.— You will find it necessary often to refresh your mind by reading the queries & to recall the subject to your recollection. If you will attempt to do so you will confer a very great kindness on me. I have had no answers about (5),—an expression well known to the old Grecian statuaries.—5

By a very odd chance, yesterday I was wishing I knew any observer on the Guinea coast! It is said there is there a breed of sheep in which the rams alone are horned; & another breed in which the rams alone have great beard or ruff of hair on the throat. Now I much want to know whether the horns appear later or earlier in life in these ram-lambs, than in breeds in which both sexes are horned. If any horned breed exists in same country a comparison of the rams of the same age of such breed, with the rams of the breed in which the females are hornless, would be fairest. But actual age at which horns appear wd be very useful to me. Also at what age the throat becomes hairy in the second breed, if indeed such a breed exists.—

Of course you will attend to the Gorilla & Chimpanzee; in regard to former I have seen directly opposite statements on the fact, whether the upper or lower surface of body is the most hairy.— I presume that it is true that the voice of the male is the most powerful.

I sincerely wish you health & success in your researches & I remain Dear Sir with my thanks for your kind offer | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | I may add one other subject, on which I have long been collecting information, viz what style of beauty is admired by the wild natives of each land. Whether negroes, for instance, admire a jetty black skin & woolly hair, & their own characteristic features.—

Also how far in a quiet sort of way women of barbarous tribes have any influence in leading particular men to woo them or purchase them from their parents.—6

If you have time when in Africa to write to me on such subjects, I shd. be greatly pleased.—

C. D.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. W. Reade, 19 May 1868.
CD kept notes made during 1837, 1838, and 1839 on human descent and on expression in his M and N notebooks, and in ‘Old and useless notes’ (see Barrett 1980; see also H. E. Gruber 1981, p. 39); he also made careful observations of his children’s expressions (see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix III). He made occasional observations of the expressions of indigenous peoples while on the Beagle voyage (see Journal of researches, and Keynes ed. 1988). CD may have sent Reade a copy of his printed Queries about expression (see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix V). CD started sending out handwritten lists of essentially the same questions in late 1866 and early 1867 (see Correspondence vol. 15).
CD had received answers to his Queries about expression from Cape Colony (Correspondence vol. 15, enclosure to letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867, and possibly letter from M. E. Barber, [after February 1867]), from the United States (ibid., letter from George Gibbs, 31 March 1867, and letter from J. T. Rothrock to Asa Gray, 31 March 1867), from the Malay Peninsula (ibid. letter from F. F. Geach, June 1867, and this volume, letter from F. F. Geach, April 1868), from Brazil (Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Fritz Müller, [8 October 1867], n. 2), from India (ibid., letter from H. N. B. Erskine to F. J. Wedgwood, 1 November 1867, and this volume, letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, 1 April 1868), from New Zealand (Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Julius von Haast, 4 December 1867), and from Australia (ibid., letter from F. A. Hagenauer to Ferdinand von Mueller, [12 September 1867], letter from Ferdinand von Mueller, 8 October 1867, letter from Edward Wilson, 8 November 1867, letter from Samuel Wilson to Ferdinand von Mueller, 12 November 1867, and this volume, letter from Edward Wilson, 19 February 1868. He had also received answers to an earlier set of questions concerning Fuegians (Correspondence vol. 15, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 11 January 1867), and recollections of the peoples of South America (letter from David Forbes, 26 March 1868). In Expression, p. 19, CD wrote that, thanks to Edward Wilson, he had received from Australia thirteen sets of answers to his queries. For contemporary definitions of ‘negroes’, see Nott and Gliddon 1854, pp. 182–8; there is an annotated copy of Nott and Gliddon 1854 in the Darwin Library–CUL (Marginalia 1: 603–6).
Question 5 in CD’s printed list of Queries about expression (see Correspondence vol.16, Appendix V) is: ‘When in low spirits, are the corners of the mouth depressed, and the inner corner of the eyebrows raised by that muscle which the French call the “Grief muscle?” The eyebrow in this state becomes slightly oblique, with a little swelling at the inner end; and the forehead is transversely wrinkled in the middle part; but not across the whole breadth, as when the eyebrows are raised in surprise.’ CD discussed Greek statues bearing this expression in Expression, pp. 184–5.
CD discussed the matters that he asked Reade to look into in Descent, occasionally citing Reade for information that he had sent him.


Barrett, Paul H. 1980. Metaphysics, materialism, and the evolution of mind. Early writings of Charles Darwin. With a commentary by Howard E. Gruber. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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

Gruber, Howard Ernest. 1981. Darwin on man. A psychological study of scientific creativity. 2d edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


Thanks WWR for information in answer to his queries concerning expression.

Asks when horns first appear among a breed of sheep on the Guinea coast,

and for information about the gorilla and chimpanzee.

Asks about African ideas of beauty.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Winwood Reade
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.371)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6754,” accessed on 27 March 2023,

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