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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy   29 September 1868

Freshwater | I.O.W.

29 Sept 68.

Dear Sir

In accordance with your wish—I beg to forward you some answers to your “Queries about Expression” which I hope may be what you wished for.1

I remain | Yours truly | T. Speedy

Chas Darwin Esqr

No 1. Yes. also right hand placed on the forehead palm to the front.2

3. Yes.3

4. Yes, also biting nether lip also snapping thumb & middle finger.

7. Yes4

8. D—

9. D—

11. Yes, also spitting on the ground5

11. "

12. "6

13. "7

14. Yes8—also place back of hand against the mouth.

15. The jealous expression am unable to define except that nether lip is bitten, corners of mouth drawn down, slight frown.

16. No hiss—only hand gently patting the lips

17. in affirmation, head thrown back, or jerked back, eye brows raised for an instant, negation, head jerked to right shoulder, & slight cluck with tongue, mouth closed9

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘(Abyssinia.)’ pencil; ‘23 Abyssinia’ red crayon, partly overwriting: ‘Relates that Prince Theodore & Abyssin [permit]pencil
Verso of letter: ‘From what Capt S. told me at Isle of Wight I have hardly a doubt that the eyebrows are raised in grief.—’ ink


No earlier correspondence between CD and Speedy has been found. However, Speedy and his ward, Prince Alämayyähu, visited the Darwins on 20 July 1868, during the Darwins’ stay at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)); CD may have given Speedy a printed list of his Queries about expression (see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix V for a transcription of the queries). In Expression, p. 22, CD acknowledged Speedy’s help regarding the ‘Abyssinians’ (Ethiopians). Speedy answered the queries partly from memory and partly from observation of the son of ‘King Theodore’ (Tewodros II of Ethiopia), that is, Alämayyähu.
CD cited Speedy for his observation of the hand on the forehead as expressing astonishment in Expression, p. 289.
See Expression, p. 247, where CD cited Speedy’s response about the expression of anger without naming him. Abyssinia is now known as Ethiopia.
CD cited Speedy’s response on snarling or sneering, without naming him, in Expression, p. 252.
Speedy probably wrote ‘11’ by mistake for ‘10’; CD cited Speedy for his observation of spitting as an expression of disgust in Expression, p. 261.
CD cited Speedy’s response on the secretion of tears when laughing, without naming him, in Expression, pp. 209–10.
CD cited Speedy on observations of shrugging in Expression, pp. 268.
CD cited Speedy’s response on children pouting, without naming him, in Expression, p. 233.
CD cited Speedy for his observation of these expressions of affirmation and negation in Expression, p. 275.


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.


Sends some answers to CD’s queries on expression, based on his observations of Abyssinians.

Letter details

Letter no.
Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 224
Physical description
3pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6398,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

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