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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [3 November 1872]1

Bassett, | Southampton.


My dear Father,

I was delighted to get “Expression” this morning, and I am enjoying galloping through it extremely:2 Will not a child find it troublesome to clear its throat, because the reflex action of swallowing anything in the throat is so much more powerful.3 I think you have extinct for distinct p. 464

I am hoping to come home on Saturday or Saturday week, I will send word which.5 I should like to see any reviews or interesting letters

Your affect son | W E Darwin

When I am “a vulgar man” enough to scratch my head when puzzled it gives me the idea of momentarily taking my attention off the subject considered, and so helping the brain to make a fresh start6


The date is established by the reference to William’s copy of Expression (see n. 2, below). In 1872, 3 November fell on Sunday.
Presentation copies of Expression were sent out at the beginning of November (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter to Amy Ruck, [1 November 1872], and letter from W. W. Reade, 5 November 1872). William’s name appears on the presentation list for the book (Correspondence vol. 22, Appendix V).
In Expression p. 36, CD remarked that clearing the throat was not a reflex action, but had to be learnt by children.
This correction was made in the second printing of Expression.
William visited Down House on Friday 8 November 1872 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
‘A vulgar man often scratches his head when perplexed in mind’ (Expression, p. 32).


Is delighted to receive expression. Some comments on swallowing and scratching. Asks to be sent reviews.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 51)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8593F,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)