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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Lajos Felméri   3 January 1873

Much respected Sir,

I am deeply indebted to you, for the honour you have done me in having sent me your newest work: the expression of the emotions etc.

I have long ago the deepest conviction in my chief-study in the psychology, of the evolution of all our psychical or mental faculties. This view desires the same in respect to our physical forces also. Body and mind live on the same bread and water, and die together.

I studied your system the first time in Jena, after having heard it from prof. Haeckel.1 I was then deep convicted, that it is impossible to speak on the connection of body and mind without accepting your principles of the origin of the species. And as I became a professor in psychology in the year 1868, I was so much animated by the principles of the “descendenz-theorie”, that I was called by the scorn-name: “homo Darwini”

Instincts are the common language of man and animals. I was very glad to read from your excellent book, that the expression of our instincts and emotions is also common with man and animals. But allow me, Sir!, to express my regret that our classical people, the sze’kelys (szekler)2 are left out of your work. As our sze’kelys form a transition from the natural to the civilized state, so are the expressions of their emotions sometime very remarkable. Now I circulate 14 queries at my acquaintances of the Szekerland the most part others, than yours.3 I shall have the honour to communicate you the result   One instance shows, how much the expressions of the Sze’kelys are curious. Somebody asks the Sze’kely: was the inundation great in your country? He answers by giving a sign with the face, and by gently raising up the orbicular muscles of the eyes, and he gives the nasal sound, hm! Has it caused many damages? The Sze’kely answers by a more striking sign and raised up eye-muscles, by the same organ, but an octave higher sound: hm! Has it carried away your mill? is the third question. Now he nods with the hand too, and he cries out two octaves higher and by open lips: hopp! You see Sir, that the expressions of our people are very worth to be printed.

I remark on the joy and high spirits that in Corregio’s “holy night” at Dresde, the Shepherds bright delight is to be seen not only on his front and eyes, but on his ears also.—4 For the anger and for the “breathing out vengeance” and nervous force, is for ever the most admirable example “the fighter of Borghese.” (Louvre)5

In reply to your favour I have the honour to send you a copy of the diary of my journey in Scotland, and some photographs of the various races in Transylvania.6 The sze’kelys are but in a country represented, and I hope, that I can get lately good photographs from other Sze’kely countries too.

In your land I have many acquaintances but I was only with Mr A. Bain in connection.

The reception on your book will soon appear in our review of Budapest7

The Summer-Semester I intend to give lectures on the contact-points of the Darwinism and the psychology. I was very glad to experience, that my hearers receive always with great delight the principles of the “descendenz-theorie”, and that the theorie of evolution in mental and organic respect is the best method for driving away the “materia peccans”8 of the metaphysic chimeras.

I wish you Sir, a very happy new year, and am with deep respect | Your most obedient Servant | Lewis Felméri

Klausenburg, | the 3d. Janu. 1873.

Charles Darwin Esqre


Ernst Haeckel was professor of zoology at Jena in Germany (NDB).
Szekely or Szekler: Transylvanian Magyar.
The Szekely live mainly in the upper valleys of the Mureş and Olt rivers in what was eastern Transylvania and is now Romania (EB). For CD’s Queries on expression, see Expression, pp. 15–16, and Correspondence vol 15, Appendix IV).
Correggio’s Holy night (also known as the Nativity or the Adoration of the shepherds) is in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.
Felméri refers to the Fighting warrior (sometimes erroneously called the Gladiator) from the Borghese collection, now in the Louvre in Paris.
The photographs and the book (Felméri 1870) have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Felméri translated part of Expression for the journal of the Royal Hungarian Society for Natural History (Természettudományi Közlöny; Felméri 1873).
Materia peccans (Latin): disease-causing substance.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

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

Felméri, Lajos. 1870. Úti levelek Skóciából. [Travel letters from Scotland.] Sárospatak: n.p.

Felméri, Lajos. 1873. A nevetésröl: egy fejezet Darwin legújabb müvéböl. [On laughter: A chapter from Darwin’s latest work.] Természettudományi Közlöny 5: 179–92.

NDB: Neue deutsche Biographie. Under the auspices of the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. 26 vols. (A–Vocke) to date. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. 1953–.


Thanks for copy of Expression. Notes on expression among the Széklers.

Sends a copy of his book of travels in Scotland.

Letter details

Letter no.
Lajos Felméri
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Klausenburg (Cluj)
Source of text
DAR 164: 116
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8723,” accessed on 10 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21