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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Reeks   8 March 1873

North End, | East Woodhay, | Newbury—

March 8th. 1873

My dear Mr Darwin,

I found your kind letter here tonight on my return from my home at Thruxton, and I beg to thank you sincerely for it, and for kindly writing my name in “Expression of the Emotions”1

I have the more pleasure in thanking you for your very kind and complimentary letter because I know how thoroughly you appreciate careful and accurate observations. Soon after I commenced studying natural history—now nearly 20 years ago—I remember reading an observation by Swammerdam2 to the effect that any misrepresentations were bound very soon to be found out, and I have always kept this very truthful remark fully in my mind. I was rather surprised to hear that you had no actual evidence of children “pounding” (or, as I termed it “kneading”) when sucking the breast.3 Surely you have seen a young mother raise her hand and remove from her breast the tiny hand of her sucking infant: or have heard the, to me, familiar exclamation of “I must cut your nails, sweet pet; you begin to scratch”! It must be borne in mind that ladies when suckling their infants expose only the smallest possible portion of their breast; while the wives of farm laborers, especially during the summer, expose almost the whole of the bosom, and this gives the child a much better opportunity for pushing with its little hand while sucking. I have myself seen scratches on the bosoms of laboring women when suckling their children in the harvest field, and have been assured by them that they were done by the hands of their infants. Again, if the sock of a child is off when sucking you may almost invariably notice that it will repeatedly double and straighten its toes, which exactly corresponds to the habit described of my brother, only, from the position of a child when sucking, the foot cannot be pressed against any portion of the body of its mother.4

I am sorry that I cannot give you any information about the drawing back of the ears of boars with well developed tusks when fighting, simply because we never allow such formidable animals to come in collision with each other: the encounter would probably prove fatal to one of them, and it would be highly dangerous to attempt to separate them; but I have seen boars with fairly developed tusks draw back their ears when apparently enraged with sows, which we have endeavoured to mate with them.5

From your lucid description of the trembling experienced after killing the first snipe I fancied that you must either be alluding to yourself, or that you must have been with the youth at the time.6

I should, perhaps, oftener give myself the pleasure of writing to you, but that I feel you must sometimes exclaim “I wish that everyone that wrote to me had to bring their own letters!” This would certainly keep back a multiplicity of useless correspondence— What I wish you would kindly do is this: when you have any problem which you think ought to be solved by any intelligent farmer, or really working naturalist that you will not hesitate to submit it to me. If I cannot answer it I will candidly say “don’t know,” but I trust very frequently to be able to help you.

An eighteen miles’ drive today, over the highest range of Hampshire Hills, in this cold wind has given me a wretched sick headache; I must, therefore, conclude with very kind regards, & | Believe me, dear Mr Darwin, | very faithfully yours, | Henry Reeks

To | C. Darwin, Esqr. FRS. &c. &c

CD annotations

1.1 I found … mind. 2.6] crossed pencil
3.1 I am sorry] opening square bracket pencil
3.3 the encounter … with them. 3.7] scored pencil
4.1 From … time. 4.3] crossed pencil


Jan Swammerdam.
William L. P. Reeks; see letter from Henry Reeks, 3 March 1873.
See letter to Henry Reeks, 5 March [1873]. Reeks’s observation was added to Expression 2d ed., p. 119 n. 39; the second edition of Expression was published after CD’s death.


Expression 2d ed.: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. Edited by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1890.

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


Insists that suckling babies pound and scratch mothers’ breasts. Perhaps CD’s evidence to the contrary comes from ladies, who only expose small portion of bosom, as opposed to working-class women.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Stephen (Henry) Reeks
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 82
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8802,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21