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Darwin Correspondence Project

From R. H. Blair   11 July 1871

The Commande〈r〉y, 〈Worcester〉

July 11th 1871.

My dear Sir,

I have thought a great deal about the points upon which you ask me to supply data, and find very great dificulty in arranging my remarks so as to convey any definite & reliable information.1 My 〈1 or 2 words missing〉s in upon the whole question n〈ot e〉asi〈l〉y conveyed. I am con〈    〉 of 〈    〉 that the immotions 〈of the〉 Blind have the same modes of interpretation as those of the sighted.2 That each one has its appropriated expression produced by particular contortions of the face. And that imitation has no effect whatever in the case. The expressions of the countenance, however, are more forcible in the Blind than in the sighted, for whilst that of attention to sounds is a kind of normal and almost blank 〈several words missing〉 are frequent periods 〈several words missing〉ness of face, the contr〈1 or 2 words missing〉 the more vivid when an 〈    〉 of the mind sets the face to wor〈k〉.

As for blushing, the Blind who have been so from birth, have the same use as ourselves. Such A youth will blush from fear, when he will give you the idea also of tremor, from shame, from anger, or surprise. But I cannot yet say how far down the body he will blush.3

On Thursday July 20th. we have a prize distribution 〈several words missing〉ting by Blind 〈several words missing〉 B〈l〉ind youths. If 〈you l〉ike to take Luncheon 〈with〉 the Bishop of Worcester4 & a few friends at our place the Commandery, on that day, it will be a great pleasure to us, and I believe you would gather a great deal more than I can tell. Otherwise I will write again, & more critically.5

Yours very faithfully | R. H. Blair.

Charles Darwin Esq F.R.S. &c.

CD annotations

1.1 I … information. 1.3] crossed blue crayon
1.4 I am … sighted 1.5] scored blue crayon; ‘About 〈1 or 2 words missing〉’ blue crayon
1.6 And … case. 1.7] tripled scored blue crayon; ‘Introduction’ blue crayon, del blue crayon
1.8 are more … to sounds 1.9] scored blue crayon; ‘Or last Chapter’ blue crayon
3.1 〈several words missing〉ting … critically 3.5] crossed blue crayon


See letter to R. H. Blair, [before 16 March 1871], and letter from R. H. Blair, 16 March 1871. CD had asked Blair, who was the principal of the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen, about expression of emotions by the blind.
In Expression, p. 352, CD cited Blair for the information that those born blind displayed most expressive actions as well as the sighted, and suggested that this was explained by the fact that these expressions were inherited.
In Expression, pp. 311–12, CD cited Blair for the information that children born blind blushed.
Henry Philpott.
CD did not visit Worcester in 1871. No further correspondence between Blair and CD before the publication of Expression in 1872 has been found, but the details that appear in Expression, pp. 312 and 352, and not in this letter, suggest that they did correspond further.


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


Reports observations on expression in the blind; facial contortions and blushing.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Hugh Blair
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Worcester College for the Blind
Source of text
DAR 160: 196
Physical description
4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7857,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

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