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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. K. Thwaites   22 July 1868

Peradeniya, Ceylon

22nd July 1868

My dear Darwin,

You have no need to apologise for what you call troubling me with questions— I am always delighted to hear from you & can assure you that your questions interest very much not only myself but sundry friends here who are desirous of assisting you in your interesting researches.1

I send you a letter I received shortly before starting for a long botanical tour last month, from my friend The revd. S. O. Glenie, F.L.S. Colonial Chaplain at Trincomalie. You will see that he and his excellent lady have been doing their best for you.2

The Fowl question is a most interesting one & I succeeded, when in Colombo, in getting the man best able to obtain materials for clearing up the point, to enter upon the matter heartily. Mr C. P. Layard, the Government agent of the S. W. Province, at once desired one of his officers to procure for him as many of the smoke-coloured blackboned fowls as he could—both cocks & hens—so that he might get up a stock by rearing them.3

The native officer, upon being told to get cocks as well as hen birds, remarked that he did not remember having seen any but hen-birds of that kind, but that he would try to obtain cocks.

These fowls are considered of medicinal value by the natives. I have often eaten them, and have quite got over the rather unpleasing appearance of the black periosteum.

I am all in confusion here at present, as the building of a Museum is going on close to my house, & my farm yard is tenanted by masons &c all day long.4 When I am settled again & in quiet I will certainly rear these black fowls for your information & my own consumption—

Yours always | most sinc— | G. H. K. Thwaites


natives of Ireland tell me it is a common expression of countenance among the lower classes of their countrywomen.—

Ever since we received your first copy of Darwin’s queries, about 6 months ago, Mrs. Glenie and I have given our attention to them.5 The population is sparse in our neighbourhood, and for the most part in constant contact with Europeans— I mention this before giving a reply to any of the questions, as well as the fact that they all endeavour to drill their countenances so as to express as little emotion as possible before Europeans.—

To Question 1. Mrs. Glenie & I can unhesitatingly answer Yes.

To Question 7. This expression we have observed, but not often.6

To Question 11. Yes, but in a more exaggerated manner.—

To Question 15. Yes, as regards guilty & sly expression.—

To Question 17— Yes.—

I may hereafter be able to answer two or three more but this is the extent of what I can rely upon for the present

When I received these questions from you I thought it would be an easy matter to answer them, but the more I observe the more difficult I find it is to observe, and to arrive at satisfactory conclusions.—

Before I enquire about the monkeys be so good as to tell me whether Macacas silenus is one of these animals described under another name by Tennent, and whether it is one of those figured in the print opposite to page 5 of Tennent’s Nat. Hist: of Ceylon.—7

Since the receipt of your letter I have made enquiries about the grass I sent you, which I suspected to be a Panicum although I would not say of what species, and I find that the seed from which it was grown came not from England as I was at first told, but from Hongkong. Being assured that it came from England I

CD annotations

1.2 countrywomen.—] ‘Revd. S. O. Glenie of Trincomalie, Ceylon’ ink; ‘Ceylon’ double underl pencil
10.1 Before … one of those 10.3] crossed pencil
11.1 Since … England I 11.4] crossed pencil
Over top of enclosure: ‘Ceylon | XVI’8 red crayon


See enclosure. The enclosed letter is incomplete; probably Thwaites only sent the relevant part of it. Thwaites refers to Samuel Owen Glenie and Mary Elizabeth Louisa Glenie. Trincomalee is a town in north-east Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).
Thwaites refers to Charles Peter Layard, government agent of the Western Province of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). See letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 19 May [1868]. The officer has not been identified. See also the letter from C. P. Layard to G. H. K. Thwaites, 28 July 1868.
Thwaites probably refers to the herbarium that was erected close to the director’s bungalow and offices in the Peradeniya Botanic Gardens in 1868 (H. Trimen 1885, McCracken 1997, p. 151).
CD had sent Thwaites printed copies of his queries about expression with his letter of 31 January [1868]; for a transcription of the questions, see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix V. Thwaites replied in a letter of 1 April 1868 that he had put the questions into the hands of ‘several persons’.
CD quoted Glenie’s answer to this question, which had to do with showing the canine teeth in sneering, in Expression, p. 252.
Thwaites had evidently passed on CD’s enquiry about Macacus silenus (now Macaca silenus, the liontail macaque; see letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 13 February [1868] and n. 3). Glenie refers to Tennent 1861: the plate opposite page 5 shows four monkeys, labelled ‘Presbytes cephalopterus’, ‘P. thersites’, ‘P. priamus’, and ‘Macacus pileatus’. ‘Macacus pileatus’ is a synonym of Macaca sinica, the toque macaque of Sri Lanka. The genus ‘Presbytes’ is now spelled Presbytis, but none of its current species are found in Sri Lanka. Presbytes cephalopterus is a synonym of Semnopithecus vetulus subsp. nestor (the western purple-faced langur). Presbytes thersites and P. priamus are synonyms of Semnopithecus priam, the tufted gray langur.
CD numbered the responses to his Queries about expression.


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

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

McCracken, Donal P. 1997. Gardens of empire: botanical institutions of the Victorian British empire. London and Washington: Leicester University Press.

Tennent, James Emerson. 1861. Sketches of the natural history of Ceylon, with narratives and anecdotes illustrative of the habits and instincts of the mammalia, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects &c. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.

Trimen, Henry. 1885. Hand-guide to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Pérádeniya. 2d edition. Colombo: G. J. A. Skeen.


GHKT is going to procure some local smoke-coloured fowls and investigate them for CD.

Encloses letter on expression queries from S. O. Glenie.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Peradeniya, Ceylon
Source of text
DAR 178: 124; DAR 165: 53
Physical description
ALS 4pp encl 4pp inc † (by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6285,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16