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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. S. Dallas   24 February 1868


24 Feb. 1868.

My dear Sir

I was prevented on Saturday from settling my query in Piderit’s book but succeeded this morning in getting a meaning, although not a very satisfactory one for my doubtful word.—1 This was “verbissen” which of course indicates a close compression of the lips & locking of the teeth, but if we translated it so, what would become of the noun “Verbissenheit”.— I find that “verbissen” is taken to mean crabbed & sour in Flügel’s dictionary published in Berlin in 1852 the only one here in which I can find it,2 & although “crabbed” does not convey to my mind exactly what I understand by “verbissen” it is perhaps the nearest single word that we can find.—3 I hope you will be satisfied with what I have done.— The book & piece of translation go back by this post.—

I have retained Müller’s book for the present.— If you decide on publishing it I would translate it by degrees & any alterations could be made afterwards to suit Müller’s present views, or notes could be added &c.—4

Believe me | Your’s very truly | W. S. Dallas.

C. Darwin Esq


Dallas was translating sections of Piderit 1867 for CD. See letter from W. S. Dallas, 22 February 1868 and n. 1.
The reference is probably to Flügel 1847–52, published in Leipzig. No editions published in Berlin have been found. Numerous editions of Flügel’s dictionary were also published in England in the nineteenth century.
Dallas refers to the passage ‘Der verbissene Zug ist der mimische Ausdruck der Verbissenheit’ (Piderit 1867, p. 108). Dallas translated this passage as ‘The sour/crabbed trait, is the mimetic expression of crabbedness, obstinacy’.
See letter from W. S. Dallas, 22 February 1868 and nn. 2 and 3. Fritz Müller’s Für Darwin (F. Müller 1864) was translated by Dallas and published with the author’s emendations as Facts and arguments for Darwin (Dallas trans. 1869).


Flügel, Johann Gottfried. 1847–52. Praktisches Englisch-Deutsches und Deutsch-Englisches Wörterbuch. A practical dictionary of the English and German language. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1847–52.

Piderit, Theodor. 1867. Wissenschaftliches System der Mimik und Physiognomik. Detmold: Klingenberg’sche Buchhandlung.


Has difficulty translating Piderit’s use of verbissen.

Will hold F. Müller’s book until CD decides about translating it.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Sweetland Dallas
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 16
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5925,” accessed on 28 September 2021,

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