skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Briton Riviere   1 April 1872

Down, Beckenham, Kent

April 1st. 72

Dear Sir

As I presume that your picture is now finished I hope that you will allow me to thank you for your very great kindness in saying that you would try, when well enough, whether you could make two rough pencil sketches of a dog in the two attitudes explained in the notes, which I again send.1 A German artist, lately dead whose name I forget, made for me through Mr Wolf the two enclosed drawings, but they seem to me so little expressive that I shall not use them.2 The hostile dog is I think much the best of the two, and would perhaps do with a little alteration. I do not think that the enclosed photograph, about which you spoke to Miss Bonham Carter, shows what I mean.3 A dog approaching another dog from a little distance with hostile feelings always holds, I think, his head lower than in the drawing; and his ears are always pointed forwards. There is no trace in the photograph of the eminently characteristic bristling of the hair on the neck and back. I went, at your suggestion, to the two most likely photographers about taking a dog in the act of caressing his master; but they said they had no opportunity, and after reflection were evidently convinced that if they had they could not succeed. From what I hear that you say about the great difficulty of drawing a caressing dog, I shall perhaps have to give up the two desired illustrations; but I regret this as I have two good drawings on wood of a savage and caressing cat done by Mr Wood who draws for the Field.4 Mr. W. is not very familiar with dogs, and seems very doubtful whether he could represent what I have described in the enclosed notes; nor am I in the least surprised at this, now that I have heard what you said to Miss B. Carter on the subject.

Pray forgive me for troubling you with this long letter and I remain my dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


Riviere exhibited Daniel in 1872 at the Royal Academy (ODNB). CD may have met Riviere while in London from 13 February until 21 March 1872 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). The enclosure has not been found, but there are two pages of notes, in Emma Darwin’s hand, on the appearance of a dog when hostile and pleased, in DAR 53.2: 99.
The enclosures have not been found. The German artist has not been identified. Joseph Wolf provided CD with drawings for Expression (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Joseph Wolf, 3 March 1871). In DAR 53.1: C164, there are two drawings of a dog, initialled ‘J.W.’; instructions have been written on them, probably by Francis Darwin, regarding aspects of the drawing that needed alteration. For more on these and other animal drawings made by Wolf and Riviere, see Prodger 2009, pp. 144–55.
The enclosure was evidently a photograph of the painting Alexander and Diogenes by Edwin Henry Landseer (see letter from Briton Riviere, 3 April 1872). The photograph is in DAR 53.1: C141. CD had received information from Riviere on expression in dogs through Elinor Mary Bonham-Carter (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter from Briton Riviere to E. M. Bonham Carter, 26 June 1871).
The woodcuts of cats made from drawings by Thomas W. Wood are in DAR 53.1: 160–1 and appeared in Expression, pp. 58–9. The Field was a weekly newspaper. In Expression, pp. 52–5, CD used woodcuts from drawings of hostile and affectionate dogs by both Riviere and Arthur Dampier May.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Prodger, Phillip. 2009. Darwin’s camera: art and photography in the theory of evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Asks BR to make two drawings of dogs to show expressions. Discusses expressions of hostile dog and caressing dog.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Briton Riviere
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 318
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8265,” accessed on 4 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20