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Darwin Correspondence Project

To R. H. Blair   [before 16 March 1871]1

Dear Sir,

Several years ago you were so kind as to give some information to my son (who visited one of your pupils) about the blushing of the blind, & at how early an age they blushed.2 My son informed me that you appeared interested about expression, & seemed so obliging & ready to give information, that I have thought you wd perhaps not grudge the trouble to aid me on 2 or 3 points, with respect to the blind.— The enclosed query3 has been sent all over the world—& I have collected much curious information on the exp of the emotions with the most distant and savage races of men; & I am preparing an essay on the subject for publication. All the facts indicate much uniformity in the races of man & that they ought not to be called distinct species

It would be of much value to me learn, with respect to persons born blind, especially the young, if whether you have observed, the hand raised & opened as described under Qu (1): under the emotion of astonishment   Also with respect to shrugging the shoulders as in Q. 13

I fear you have not under your care very young children so will not be able to answer Q. 14—4 Any detailed remarks on the expression exhibited with reference to these 3 queries, with the circumstances explained, under which they were observed, would be gratefully received, & I would beg for permission to quote them on your authority.— Of course, any remarks on any other points [for example] on the curious expression referred in Q. 7. would be very interesting to me, with reference to those born blind—5

Hoping that you will excuse the liberty which I have taken in begging this favour, I remain | Dear Sir | Yours f. C.D.

You spoke to my son about some friend, who had charge of a large Asylum for the Blind who you thought felt interest in the subject [2 words illeg] and would aid me.—6


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from R. H. Blair, 16 March 1871.
CD refers to William Erasmus Darwin. See Correspondence vol. 16, letter from W. E. Darwin, [after 25 March 1868]. The pupil has not been identified.
CD evidently enclosed a copy of his queries about expression (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix VII).
Question 14 concerned pouting in young children (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix VII).
Question 7 concerned the raising of the lip in sneering (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix VII).
See Correspondence vol. 16, letter from W. E. Darwin, [after 25 March 1868] and n. 3. The friend has not been identified.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Thanks RHB for information on expression in the blind.

Sends queries on expression and asks whether he could answer them with respect to those born blind.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Hugh Blair
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 100
Physical description
AdraftS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7588,” accessed on 9 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19