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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Wilson   22 February 1868

Hayes | Bromley, Kent.

22d. Feby 1868

My dear Mr. Darwin.

Enclosed is the only black fellow I have got.1

“Mr Tincan” is a capital specimen of the race & very characteristic of the better tribes in Victoria.2

He was a very steady & intelligent fellow, for a black fellow, & live⁠⟨⁠d, for⁠⟩⁠ some time as a stock keeper, with a friend of mine; a perfect mode⁠⟨⁠l of⁠⟩⁠ propriety, except, for a few weeks periodically, when, like almost every other “civilised” black fellow that I ever heard of, he insisted upon having his “fling” & taking to his Opossum skin would run quite wild amongst his dusky companions. He had rather a ludicrous taste for the fine arts, & I have got some pictures of his which I should be glad to rout out some day & shew you.

Please let me have the Photograph back when you have done with it.

In addition to the list of enquiries as to the emotions, of which I enclosed a reply in my last, I have sent a list of them to a gentleman in ⁠⟨⁠Quee⁠⟩⁠nsland & also to one in South Australia, who will I am sure take great pains about them, so that you should be very thoroughly informed as to the Australian natives.3

A mention in yr. great new work of the cross of the bulldog having been introduced to give courage & tenacity to a breed of the Greyhound,4 reminds me of a very laughable story that occurred under my own knowledge.

For some years I had a cattle station of my own & between my place & some almost inaccessible ranges, a little settler sat down & earned an honest livelihood by breeding a few cattle. ⁠⟨⁠He⁠⟩⁠ was greatly annoyed by the wild dogs which in those days, were ⁠⟨⁠very nu⁠⟩⁠merous particularly amongst the hills, & finding ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠Kangeroo⁠⟩⁠ dogs, altho very good for their principal ⁠⟨⁠pu⁠⟩⁠rsuit, had not courage enough to deal with the wild dogs ⁠⟨⁠h⁠⟩⁠e took up to his station a very fine bull dog of a high pedigree, with a view of introducing the necessary spirit. He chained up his prize close to his hut & doubtless hugged himself in the belief, that he should soon be upon a much better footing with his enemy. But the wild dogs did not enter into the experiment at all in a corresponding spirit, & almost directly after the arrival of the bull dog they held a cabinet council amongst themselves to consider the merits of the case, & after voting by acclamation an entire want of confidence in the new arrival, they took the


CD had requested photographs of Australian aboriginal people in his letter to Wilson of 20 February [1868].
On the aboriginal peoples of Victoria, Australia, see Barwick 1972. ‘Mr Tincan’ has not been identified.
The gentleman in Queensland was probably Dyson Lacy (see letter from Dyson Lacy, [before 13 August 1868]). In Expression, p. 20, CD noted that through Wilson he had received thirteen sets of answers to his queries.
Wilson refers to Variation 1: 41.


Barwick, Diane. 1972. Coranderrk and Cumeroogunga: pioneers and policy. In Opportunity and response: case studies in economic development, edited by Trude Scarlett Epstein and David H. Penny. London: C. Hurst & Company.

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

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD’s queries on expression.

Sends photo of a native Australian.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Wilson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hayes, Kent
Source of text
DAR 181: 124
Physical description
3pp & damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5916,” accessed on 7 December 2021,

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