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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. C. Donders   8 April 1872

Down. | Beckenham. Kent.

Apl. 8. 1872.

My dear Professor Donders,

I am greatly obliged to you for having taken such great trouble to illuminate one as ignorant as I am on the functions of the eye—1 Your information has been many times of the greatest use to me; & what is even a still greater kindness, you have saved me from having fallen into many errors—2

I have received the German Pamphlet & read the part indicated; & have written to Bowman to borrow Mr Wells’ work.3 When I go again over my M.S., I will carefully reconsider all that I have written; & as the subject is so intricate, the result I think will be that I will strike out a good deal, & only give some facts & quote what you have told me—4

I feel every day that to write on expression, a man ought to have ten times as much physiological knowledge as I possess; but I hope to succeed in giving a good many observations, especially on the expression and gestures of Savages; & then some one hereafter will correct my speculations.

I must again say how extremely kind it is in you, full of knowledge & busily employed as you are to spend so much time in aiding me.

Believe me | Yours very gratefully— | Charles Darwin.


For CD’s earlier correspondence with Donders, see Correspondence vols. 17 and 18.
The pamphlet referred to is Donders 1871; see letter from F. C. Donders, 1 April 1872 and n. 7. See also letter to William Bowman, 8 April [1872]. CD refers to John Soelberg Wells and Wells 1869.
CD made frequent references to information from Donders in Expression.


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

Donders, Frans Cornelis. 1871. Die Projection der Gesichtserscheingungen nach den Richtungslinien. Archiv für Ophthalmologie 17 (part 2): 1–68.

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

Wells, John Soelberg. 1869. A treatise on the diseases of the eye. London: John Churchill & Sons.


Thanks FCD for information, which will make him "strike out a good deal".

Has received German pamphlet.

Will read work by John Soelberg Wells [? A treatise on the diseases of the eye (1869, 1870)].

Discusses his work on expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frans Cornelis (Franciscus Cornelius) Donders
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 413
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8279,” accessed on 24 November 2020,

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