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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Scott   3 June 1868

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.,

June 3rd, 1868

My Dear Sir,—

Your answers to my queries on expression are by far the best and fullest which I have received from any quarter.1 An observer who is excellent in one line is pretty sure to be so in another, if he will, as you have been so kind as to do, turn his attention to it. I have had one long answer from Mr Erskine, a judge in your up-country and it is extremely curious that the two points which surprise me most in his letter surprise me in yours, namely that a native, when indignant, apparently had no tendency to close his fists and square his elbows. I wrote to Mr E. to observe this point again, and I much wish that you would do so as well, with a man indignant, and not in a violent passion. Secondly Mr E. made some remarks (I cannot find his letter at the present moment) about a lateral shake of the head, either in affirmation or negation; will you observe this point again?2 An anxious or distressed girl, not in violent grief, offers the best chance of seeing the slightly oblique eyebrows, with the forehead transversely wrinkled only in the middle part.

I should be very grateful for any other observations, for many of your remarks shew that you are a first rate observer on this subject. Many thanks for handing my paper to Dr Anderson.3 You offer me help about pigeons; in Europe, but not in England, there are sub-breeds in which the males are differently coloured in a slight degree from the females. Will you enquire if any such sub-breeds exist in India?4 If so, I want to know at what period of life the particular colours of the male first appear. You could perhaps aid me on another connected point of great interest to me: there is a breed of fowls in India, in which the hens alone are sooty coloured, with black comb, wattles and bones.5 How is the plumage, comb, etc. of the cock coloured? But what I especially want to know is, whether the chickens of both sexes, when about two months’ old, resemble each other, and whether they nearly resemble the adult male or adult female.

The seeds of your violets and Vandellia have just germinated. Has Leersia produced perfect flowers with you?6 I thank you very sincerely for all your kind assistance, and with every good wish remain,

Yours sincerely, | Charles Darwin.


See letter from John Scott, 4 May 1868. See also Expression, p. 21, for CD’s commendation of Scott’s observations.
CD refers to Henry Napier Bruce Erskine. For Erskine’s replies to CD’s queries about emotion, see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from H. N. B. Erskine to F. J. Wedgwood, 1 November 1867; CD’s letters to Erskine have not been found. In his letter of 1 November 1867, Erskine said that he did not remember ever having seen ‘a native clench his fists’. He also wrote that two informants had told him of the head being shaken laterally in negation. Scott did not write further on these queries until his letter of 2 July 1869 (Correspondence vol. 17).
CD refers to John Anderson and to CD’s list of queries about expression; see letter from John Scott, 4 May 1868 and n. 2.
In Descent 2: 177–8, CD commented that in domestic pigeons, unlike domestic fowl, the two sexes in most breeds and sub-breeds had identical plumage.
CD mentioned the sooty fowl of India, in which only the female had black skin and bones, in Variation 1: 230, 256. See also letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 19 May [1868].
Scott had sent seeds of Vandellia and Viola to CD in September 1867; in the accompanying letter he mentioned that Leersia had produced no perfect (that is, open, or non-cleistogamic) flowers with him (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from John Scott, 24 September 1867 and nn. 2 and 6–8).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.


As JS’s powers of observation seem to exist in all lines, CD begs further information from him and [H. N. B.] Erskine about the natives’ expressions of indignation, affirmation, and negation. The movements of the eyebrows and forehead of a girl in violent grief are of particular interest.

Do sub-breeds of pigeons exist in India as in Europe, but not in England? If so, what is the colour of the plumage in males and females at different stages of development?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Scott
Sent from
Source of text
Transactions of the Hawick Archæological Society (1908): 68–9

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6226F,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

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