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Darwin Correspondence Project

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

Macrobius. Saturnalia

Bk VII. c. 11

(He lived in the 5th. century AD)

“What is the reason that the sense of shame in the mind produces redness in the body? When anything happens worthy of shame nature seeks the blood from its lowest recesses, with which she suffuses the skin & thence arises redness.

Natural philosophers say that nature being moved by shame spreads the blood before herself as a veil, as we, see any one blushing often put his hands before his face2

This is a scrap I copied for Uncle Chas because I remember saying I thought there was no passage about hiding the face in ancient literature.3 This however hardly contradicts it

CD annotations

1.1 Macrobius] pencil line down to ‘He‘ 3.2
3.1 (He] ‘who‘ above pencil
3.1 century] comma added after, pencil
3.1 AD] del pencil
4.1 “What] ‘(Satur [after ‘who says‘ pencil del pencil] B VII.c.11‘ above pencil
5.1 say] del pencil; ‘assert‘ above pencil
5.2 put] altered toputspencil


The date range is established from the fact that the content of the letter relates to CD’s work on expression (see n. 3, below). CD was working on expression with a view to publishing between 1867 and 1872.
CD cited this passage in Expression, p. 323. Wedgwood refers to Macrobius’s Saturnalia.


An extract from Macrobius’ Saturnalia dealing with blushing.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 181: 48
Physical description
Amem 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7061,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

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