skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Crichton-Browne   20 February [1871]1


Feb. 20,

My dear Sir

I very truly grieve to hear that your continued labours and anxiety have at last injured your health seriously.2 I know from long-tried experience what misery continued ill-health causes, but my health affects only comfort, and is not otherwise serious, which I fear from what you say is far from your case. Your MS. is most useful and interesting to me, and though I would not wish one single word omitted, and shall consider the whole very carefully, I regret that I have caused you to write at such length.3 A few sentences will suffice for my object, but as your trouble in writing it is now over, I must say that I rejoice (though regretting) at its length, as it makes me understand the cases much better. I did not make enough or any allowance for mere senseless laughter and weeping.4 I have, however, not yet sufficiently considered your MS. with respect to the hairy ears (is it of idiot or insane—I suppose congenital?).5 I should much like to see a photograph out of curiosity, and I can return it, when I return the others. After I have seen all that you can send, I will then ask, whether I could have some (supposing any suit my purpose which is of course a chance) copied:6 there would however be risk of the copyiers dirtying any photograph. I go to London for a week on Thursday, and intend to enquire about the new plans of engraving direct from photographs.7 Please address Photographs to C. Darwin, Orpington Station, Kent, S.E. Railway. With respect to bronzed colour from renal disease, I do not think the facts (Mr. Paget formerly gave me some) would be of service: the case seems so hopelessly obscure.8 You most kindly tell me that I may ask more questions: Gratiolet (who though so good an observer, I think sometimes runs away with facts) asserts that the pupils of the eyes contract in violent rage, and “dilate enormously” under extreme terror.9 Have you ever observed this, or can you observe it,—allowance being made for any brain disease? My little essay on Expression does not deserve to rank above a Hobby-horse; now some thirty years old: I feel bound to publish, as I have received from various correspondents much information in regard to savages; and to these observations I have now to add your to me very valuable notes.10 You will, ere this have received I hope my book: I fear there will be too much natural History for you; but it would delight me if I should succeed in interesting you for an hour or two by the first and last parts.11

My dear Sir, with cordial thanks Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. Since writing this I have been working in your remarks on weeping and they come in splendidly for me.12


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from James Crichton-Browne, 16 February 1871, and by the reference to CD’s visit to London (see n. 7 below).
See enclosure to letter from James Crichton-Browne, 16 February 1871. In Expression, p. 156, CD wrote: ‘We must not, however, lay too much stress on the copious shedding of tears by the insane, as being due to the lack of all restraint; for certain brain-diseases, as hemiplegia, brain-wasting, and senile decay, have a special tendency to induce weeping.’
CD used only one photograph supplied by Crichton-Browne to illustrate Expression (a woman with bristling hair) and that was reproduced as an engraving rather than photographically (Expression, p. 296, figure 19). See also Ekman 1998, pp. 296–7, and Prodger 1999, p. 406.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), the family went up to London on Thursday 23 February 1871.
See letter from James Crichton-Browne, 16 February 1871. No notes from James Paget on discoloration of the skin in renal disease have been found.
CD refers to Louis Pierre Gratiolet and to Gratiolet [1865], p. 346. CD scored this passage in his copy of Gratiolet 1865 (see Marginalia 1: 346–7).
CD opened his first notebook on expression of the emotions in 1838; until June 1870 he had intended to publish his findings as a chapter of Descent (see Correspondence vol. 18, letter to F. C. Donders, 21 June 1870). In the event Expression was published in November 1872 as a monograph (Freeman 1977). CD received information on expression in native peoples from a number of correspondents in response to a questionnaire first sent out in 1867 (see for example, Correspondence vol. 15, letter from M. E. Barber, [after February 1867]; Correspondence vol. 16, letter to David Forbes, [20 March 1868], and letter from Robert Swinhoe, 4 August 1868; see also this volume, Appendix VII).
CD had sent a copy of Descent to Crichton-Browne (see letter to James Crichton-Browne, 8 February 1871, and letter from James Crichton-Browne, 19 February 1871). CD probably refers to Descent part I, which comprises chapters on human descent, and the final three chapters of part II, which comprise two chapters on secondary sexual characteristics in humans, and a conclusion.
See enclosure to letter from James Crichton-Browne, 16 February 1871 and nn. 8 and 9.


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.

Ekman, Paul. 1998. Introduction, afterword, and commentary to the third edition of The expression of the emotions in man and animals, by Charles Darwin. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

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

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.

Gratiolet, Pierre. [1865.] De la physionomie et des mouvements d’expression. Paris: J. Hetzel.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.


JC-B’s MS most useful.

P. Gratiolet’s observations on contraction and dilation of pupils of eye of a person in extreme terror. Has JC-B ever observed this? Expression has been his hobby-horse for 30 years.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Crichton-Browne
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 334
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7499,” accessed on 23 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19