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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Arthur Nicols   23 August 1872

11 Church Row | Hampstead | N.W

Aug. 23. 72—

Dear Sir.

I am very much indebted to you for having taken so much trouble on my account, who have no manner of claim upon your courtesy.

I have received the “Content” slips of your forthcoming work which I, among so many more, shall look for with pleasant anticipation.1

With regard to the few observations I have made on some methods of intercommunication between animals, your suggestion that I should draw up a short paper on the subject is no doubt the best, and when I have a few days to spare I shall do my best to put my notes in order. Whatever I have to say will go further to strengthen the belief that animals do communicate (and that not merely simple ideas) than to explain the precise means of transmitting their mental impressions. I suppose there is no animal whatever possessed of a high organization which has not the power of communicating a simple mental impression such as alarm: but I think that something much more complex can be traced among such phlegmatic creatures even as sheep; amounting to the capacity to arrange a line of action, and convey to other individuals a general idea of it. When they are flurried, sheep justify the proverb relating to their “follow my leader” habits: but in the broken country and forests of Australia where their natural faculties have full play, they may be seen to possess a vast amount of intelligence.

Should any-thing which I may be able to string together be accepted by one of the Magazines I shall do myself the honour of forwarding you a copy in case it may contain any thing of interest to you.

With renewed thanks I am, | Dear Sir; | Yours very truly | Arthur Nicols

Chas Darwin— Esq F.R.S etc, etc.


Nicols had requested the table of contents for Expression (letter from Arthur Nicols, 20 August 1872). No letter from CD to Nicols has been found.


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


Doubts reported cases of homing instinct in dogs.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Arthur (Arthur) Nicols
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 172: 59
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8484,” accessed on 7 December 2019,

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