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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. J. Wedgwood to H. E. Darwin   [1867–72]1

Dear Harroty

I have been mea⁠⟨⁠ni⁠⟩⁠ng to write to you before yours arrived to Ho⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠e, & tho I have not much to say on the subject of Shame yet the small contribution derived from that source together with the original matter in my brain ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ enough to ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ 1d worth, ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ you must take ⁠⟨⁠i⁠⟩⁠t in ⁠⟨⁠pen⁠⟩⁠cil as my tiresome head does not like stooping forward to I cannot remember any ancient or e⁠⟨⁠v⁠⟩⁠en any but quite modern descriptions of people hiding their faces for shame. Indeed I don't think a Greek or Roman wd have known the feeling we meant by shame. The nearest approach to it I can remember is Paris’s answer to Hector’s reproach but ⁠⟨⁠tha⁠⟩⁠t is a mere half ⁠⟨⁠con⁠⟩⁠fession that he is not so manly as might ⁠⟨⁠be⁠⟩⁠ & has not the faintest approach to emotion in it.2

Thersites weeps when Ulysses taunts him but he does not cover his face.3 I think the emotion of shame is wrapped up with our modern sense of personal dignity of which the ancients had no conceptio⁠⟨⁠n⁠⟩⁠— the 2 things seem ⁠⟨⁠to⁠⟩⁠ me poles of the same magnet.

Milton has no face hiding, though he quite depicts shame Adam & Eve hide themselves when God calls them, but there is nothing about covering the face when they are discovered, & in the description of Dalilah before Samson “with head declined Like a fair flower surcharged with dew she weeps” but does not hide her face.4

The only passage I can remember is Guinevere when Arthur finds her & “prone off her seat she fell And grovelled with her face ag⁠⟨⁠ai⁠⟩⁠nst the floor: There with her milk white arms & shadowy hair She made her face a darkness from the King.” which rather bears out my idea that it is a nineteenth century bit of picturesqueness.5

On the other hand (but I dont know whether it is to the point when Uncle C⁠⟨⁠h⁠⟩⁠ asks for quotations to give facts, & of course Uncle Ch cannot care for so very obvious a fact as that people do cover their faces for shame)— Miss Gourlay6 told me when I was asking her if her girls ever went wrong of one of them (they are all the lowest of the low) who had gone to the bad & ⁠⟨⁠w⁠⟩⁠hen she (Miss G) found her in a hospital ran away from her & hid her face & cd not be persuaded to look up till Miss G had to go away.7 Of course she was not one to reproach the wretched creature. I do not remember the Dante quotation I will look for it ⁠⟨⁠&⁠⟩⁠ Wordsworth8

Goodbye dear Harroty | yr affec cousin FJW

CD annotations

3.3 in … declined] scored red crayon
5.3 Mis … bad 5.5] double scored red crayon; ‘(p. 13) Did they blush?’ red crayon


The date range is established from the fact that the content of the letter relates to CD’s work on expression. CD was working on expression with a view to publishing between 1867 and 1872.
Homer, Iliad 3: 58–66.
Homer, Iliad 2: 266.
John Milton, Paradise lost (Milton 1667), book 10, and Samson Agonistes (Milton 1671), p. 47.
The quotation is from Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the king (Tennyson 1859, p. 387).
The Dante and William Wordsworth quotations have not been identified.


Milton, John. 1667. Paradise lost. A poem written in ten books. London: Peter Parker, Robert Boulter, and Matthias Walker.

Milton, John. 1671. Paradise regain’d. A poem. In IV books. To which is added Samson Agonistes. London: J. Starkey.

Tennyson, Alfred. 1859. Idylls of the king. London: E. Moxon.


The expression of shame in ancients, Milton, the Bible, and in poor girls under Miss Gourlay’s charge.

Letter details

Letter no.
Frances Julia (Snow) Wedgwood
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 46, DAR 189: 140
Physical description
ALS 8pp inc † (by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7059,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20