skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. H. Hall   5 March 1873

5. Stanley Crescent. | Kensington Park. W.

March 5. 1873.


Having read with much interest your “Expression of the Emotions” I take the liberty of asking you what is the reason for elevating the eyebrows as an expression of enquiry or interrogation.—whereas in meditation or self interrogation they are depressed into a frown.1

I find no mention of this in the present edition of your work. I have frequently noticed this expression accompanying the words IS it?”

Also the lifting of the hand when a person has at last remembered what he was trying to recollect & implying “I have it.”

yours faithfully | Honnywill Hall:

C. Darwin Esq. FRS etc.

CD annotations

1.1 Having … frown 1.4] ‘I)’ ink
3.1 Also … it.” 3.2] ‘II)’ ink

CD note:

‘i Attention is always shown as Duchenne remarks by slightly-raised eyebrows;2 *& this arises, I presume, [added] from association with looking quickly [circled and transposed from after ‘us &’] all around us [added] &.— & [‘I presume therefore’ del] when a man asks a question, he naturally [below interl del ‘shows’] shows [‘his’ del] attention to the answer.

ii About lifting up the hand I know not *the cause [interl] unless it be that *the hands [interl] [‘are habitually [interl del] [2 words illeg]’ interl and del] were with such actions, & are habitually [brought] into play [interl] that as soon as he remembered some [above del ‘any’] forgotten thing, *which he wishes to remember [added], he unwittingly [interl][‘lifting into’ del] *that he is [interl] ready for action, whether or no any action is requisite, under the particular case; *On the same principle [interl above del ‘just like’] *that a man [added] looks all round in order to remember a forgotten thing, though [illeg] cannot [possibly aid]ink


CD discussed the elevation of the eyebrows in sudden emotions such as surprise, astonishment, fear, and horror in Expression, pp. 278–309.
In his study of the muscles of the human face, the French physiologist Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne discussed the elevation of the eyebrows in photographs illustrating attention; the expression had been produced by the electrical stimulation of the frontal muscles of the forehead (Duchenne 1862, p. 18). CD’s annotated copy of Duchenne 1862 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 209–10).


Duchenne, Guillaume Benjamin Amand. 1862. Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, ou analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions. 1 vol. and ‘Atlas’ of plates. Paris: Ve Jules Renouard, Libraire.

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

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


Asks CD about the origin of certain expressions in man.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Honnywill Hall
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Stanley Crescent, 5
Source of text
DAR 53.2: 123
Physical description
ALS 1p ††

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8800,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

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