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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. W. Higginson   30 March 1873

Newport. R.I. | U.S. America

March 30. 1873.

My dear Sir

Thank you heartily for your very kind note; I count it an honor to be remembered by you at all; & I am delighted that my book gave any pleasure to one who has given me so much.1 I rejoice to know, moreover, of your kindly feeling toward the colored race, with whom some of the happiest years of my life were so identified.

It will be pleasant to us all to know that you read the Index.2 It is just going through a time of trial, resulting from it’s very success, which tempted some of the directors, I fear, to mercenary financial schemes. Possibly Abbot may have erred on the unworldly side, but I am very confident that not only his purposes but his judgment will be entirely vindicated & sustained at the Annual Meeting in June.3

You will be interested to hear that Professor Agassiz is succeeding finely with his plan of a summer school for Natural History on an island off the Masstts. Coast.4 He has already a gift of $50,000 besides the island itself; will have a fine Corps of teachers & some fifty scholars to begin with. Nobody can surpass Agassiz in the power to awaken zeal in investigation, & his pupils soon develop more liberality of scientific opinion than he shows.

We have been reading your new book5 with great interest. I suppose each reader obtrudes his few little corroborative facts upon you & I venture to send a few.

With warm regards to Mrs. Darwin & your sons who were so kind to me,6 I am most respectfully & gratefully Thos. Wentworth Higginson.


Notes on “Expression of the Emotions in Man & Animals.”

Am. edition.

p. 7. (Motions of man playing at billiards)7

We have an American game called ten-pins, a modification of the original nine-pins. The balls are rolled the whole length of an alley, eighty or ninety feet, & I have often seen an eager player, having discharged his ball, walk several steps after it, twisting his whole body in the direction desired for the ball.

Am. Ed. p. 155.

(Chap. VI.)

“Savages weep copiously from very slight causes”8

This is true of Americanized negroes. I often noticed it among my black soldiers, who wept easily from anger, shame or disappointment. See a striking instance of this in “Army Life in a Black Regiment”9 pp 112–3, where a soldier, returning from a skirmish in which he has behaved well, weeps because his comrade has stolen a piece of sugar cane.

Am. Ed. p. 311.

(Chapter VIII. 2d paragraph)

“I have received authentic accounts of two little girls blushing at the ages of between two and three years” “Not during infancy”.10

My wife11 and I were much impressed, many years ago, by seeing a deep blush come over the cheeks of a little niece of ours, on our gazing at her with especial admiration, one day. She was a beautiful child, then about nine months old. She was certainly less than a year old, for it was at her grandfather’s house in Boston, which she left before she had reached her first birthday.

There was certainly no fear or anger in the case, as she knew us perfectly, was very fond of us, & no other signs of disturbance followed. The occurrence made a great impression on us & our memory as to the details agrees perfectly.

T. W. Higginson

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Colonel Higginsonblue crayon


See letter to T. W. Higginson, 27 February [1873]. Following Higginson’s visit to Down in 1872, CD had read his account of commanding black soldiers who were former slaves during the American Civil War.
See letter to T. W. Higginson, 27 February [1873] and n. 5. The Index was a weekly paper affiliated with the Free Religious Association.
Francis Ellingwood Abbot had resigned as editor of the Index on 20 March 1873 after the paper fell into financial difficulties. In his detailed account of the affair (Abbot 1873), Abbot claimed that two of the five directors, Asa K. Butts and Peter H. Bateson, had used the paper for personal gain. Besides Abbot himself, the other directors were Edward Bissell and Calvin Cone. Abbot was reinstated as editor on 14 June 1873. (Index, 27 March 1873, 14 June 1873.)
In March 1873, Louis Agassiz accepted Penikese Island off the southern coast of Massachusetts, and an endowment of $50,000, from John Anderson, a New York merchant, to establish a natural history summer school for Massachusetts schoolteachers (see Marcou 1896, 2: 201–7). Higginson was related to Agassiz’s son-in-law, Henry Lee Higginson (Perry [1921], pp. 4–5).
Expression US ed.; the page numbers cited are the same as in the London edition of Expression, as the US edition was printed using stereotypes of the English edition (Freeman 1977, p. 144).
Higginson had visited Down in June 1872 and it is not known which of the Darwin family were then at home (Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix II); he may also have met George Howard Darwin and Francis Darwin when they visited Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1871 (Correspondence vol. 19, letter from Asa Gray, 12 October 1871).
In Expression, pp. 6–7, CD described the unconscious actions of a billiard player moving as if to correct the course of his ball.
CD had noted weeping for slight causes among adult males in primitive societies as an exception to a general rule that adults, especially males, did not cry as freely as children (Expression, pp. 154–5.)
CD believed that infants did not blush, although they did ‘redden from passion’ (Expression, p. 311).
Mary Elizabeth Higginson.


Abbot, Francis Ellingwood. 1873. The inside history of the Index Association. A report on the recent “Index troubles” made to the stockholders of the Index Association, at their second annual meeting in Toledo, Ohio, June 7, 1873. Cambridge, Mass.: Press of John Wilson & Son.

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.

Expression US ed.: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. New York: D. Appleton. 1873.

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.

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. 1870. Army life in a black regiment. Boston: Fields, Osgood, and Co.

Marcou, Jules. 1896. Life, letters, and works of Louis Agassiz. 2 vols. London and New York: Macmillan and Co.

Perry, Bliss. [1921.] Life and letters of Henry Lee Higginson. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press.


Pleased CD enjoyed his book [Outdoor papers (1871)].

Rejoices at CD’s kindly feelings toward the coloured race.

The Index is in financial trouble due to F. E. Abbot’s unworldliness.

Agassiz is setting up a summer school for natural history off the Massachusetts coast. His pupils develop more liberal scientific opinions than Agassiz’s.

Encloses some notes on expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Newport, R.I.
Source of text
DAR 166: 198
Physical description
3pp, encl 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8830,” accessed on 8 December 2021,

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