skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Chauncey Wright   21 September 1874 and 29 January 1875

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Sep 21 1874

My dear Mr Wright

I have read your long letter with the greatest interest, & it was extremely kind of you to take such great trouble.1 Now that you call my attention to the fact, I well know the appearance of persons moving the head from side to side when critically viewing any object; & I am almost sure that I have seen the same gesture in an affected person when speaking in exaggerated terms of some beautiful object, not present. I shd think your explanation of this gesture was the true one. But there seems to me a rather wide difference between inclining or moving the head laterally, & moving it in the same plane as we do in negation, & as you truly add in disapprobation. It may however be that these 2 movements of the head have been confounded by travellers when speaking of the Turks.2 Perhaps Prof. Lowell wd remember whether the movement was identically the same.3 Your remarks on the effects of viewing a sunset &c with the head inverted are very curious. We have a looking glass in the drawing room opposite the flower garden, & I have often been struck how extremely pretty & strange the flower garden & surrounding bushes appear, when thus viewed. Your letter will be very useful to me, for a new ed. of my Expression-book,4 but this will not be for a long time, if ever, as the publisher was misled by the very large sale at first, & printed far too many copies.5

I dare say you intend to publish your views in some essay, & I think you ought to do so, for you might make an interesting & instructive discussion.6

With many thanks | pray believe me | yours very sincerely— | Charles Darwin

I have been half killing myself of late with microscopical work on plants.7 I begin to think that they are more wonderful than animals!!

P.S. Jan. 29th 75. | You will see by stupid mistake in the address this letter has just been returned to me. It is by no means worth forwarding, but I cannot bear that you shd. think me so ungracious & ungrateful as not to have thanked you for your long letter. As I forget whether “Cambridge” is sufficient address, I will send this through Asa Gray.8


Some of Wright’s observations and references were added in a note to Expression 2d ed., p. 289. The second edition of Expression was edited by Francis Darwin based on CD’s corrections and published after CD’s death.
The initial printing of 7000 copies of Expression had sold quickly, and the publisher John Murray printed a further 3000 in 1873 (Freeman 1977).
Wright did not publish his views on space perception.
Wright eventually received CD’s letter through Asa Gray in February 1875 (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Chauncey Wright, 24 February 1875).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Expression 2d ed.: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. Edited by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1890.

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Head movements and their expressive significance. [P.S. explains letter was returned to CD because of a mistake in the address.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Chauncey Wright
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9650,” accessed on 25 February 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22