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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Samuel Owen Glenie to G. H. K. Thwaites   [before 31 October 1868]1

There has been a herd of captured elephants here for the last month and I have repeatedly observed them assisted by Dr Meadows and a first rate Elephant shot Mr. Walker C.R.R.2 We have had the animals irritated greatly but though they screamed violently enough we never saw any contraction of the orbicularis palpebrarum, nor did we ever see any tears.3 The natives who came in with the animals say that they are quite sure that the Elephant does not cry unless the eye is hurt or struck in any way. All speak positively on this head. The contraction of the muscle they had never witnessed, I daresay because they never observed an Elephant when trumpetting, for in such in case the natives usually take to their heels.—4 Mr Birch5 & Mr. Walker who have shot some hundreds never saw either tears shed or the muscle contracted, but then as they remark, when an Elephant trumpets he is about to charge and they have had no time then to think of anything but knocking them over— Perhaps Mr Darwin will like to know the above but he will be better pleased to learn

CD annotations

1.1 There] after opening square bracket blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Mr Glenie | 31 Oct 1868’ blue crayon


The date is established by CD’s annotation. No letter from Thwaites enclosing Glenie’s letter has been found.
Glenie resided at Trincomalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He probably refers to Charles Patton Walker, a colonial official (Colonial Office list 1868) who presumably was also a member of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. Robert Wyatt Meadows was an army surgeon in Ceylon (Hart’s army list 1868).
CD had asked Thwaites about the movement of muscles surrounding the eyelids when elephants screamed violently (see letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 31 January [1868] and n. 4). For CD’s subsequent observations of elephants at the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London, see the letter to W. E. Darwin, 8 April [1868], and the letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 19 May [1868].
CD included Glenie’s account in Expression, p. 167 n. 20.
Glenie may refer to J. W. W. Birch, a colonial official (Colonial Office list 1868).


Colonial Office list: The Colonial Office list … or, general register of the colonial dependencies of Great Britain. London: Edward Stanford; Harrison & Sons. 1862–99.

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

Hart’s army list: The new annual army list … with an index. Compiled by H. G. Hart. London: John Murray. 1840–1900.


Relates some observations on the expression of elephants; they do not cry unless the eye is hurt or struck. "Perhaps Mr Darwin will like to know the above."

Letter details

Letter no.
Samuel Owen Glenie
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 55
Physical description
inc † (by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6440,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

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