RECORD: Freeman, R. B. and P. J. Gautrey. 1975. Charles Darwin's Queries about Expression. Journal of the society for the bibliography of natural history 7 (3): 259-263.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned by John van Wyhe 11.2004, transcribed by AEL Data 12.2006. RN1

NOTE: See bibliographical introduction by R. B. Freeman.

[page] 259

J. Soc. Biblphy nat. Hist. (1975) 7 (3): 259–263

Charles Darwin's Queries about expression


University College London,
Gower Street, London W.C.1.
University Library,
West Road, Cambridge.

In 1972 we published (Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (hist. Ser.), Vol. 4, pp. 205–219) a facsimile of Charles Darwin's leaflet Queries about expression, and compared its text with that of the other two printed versions then known, one published by The Smithsonian Institution of Washington in 1868 and the other in all editions and issues of The expression of the emotions in man and animals, 1871.

The Smithsonian text is markedly different from that of the leaflet, whilst that in the book, though different, is clearly derived from the latter. The most important differences between the Smithsonian version and the leaflet are additions in the latter in queries, 2, 5, 10 and 13 and in the final remarks, and different wording in queries 7 and 9. We concluded that "the text of the queries printed by the Smithsonian Institution in 1868 was composed from an earlier version than that printed as a single leaf in 1867; though whether the copy was manuscript or printed is not apparent". We also noted that the word "printed" did not occur in any of the letters related to the queries.

Since then two further contemporary printings of the queries have come to light, as well as two further copies of the English printing, two more manuscript copies, and four relevant letters. These, taken with the documents recorded in our first paper, throw considerable doubt on the dating of the English leaflet.

The evidence for the first of the newly recorded printings is contained in a letter (Robin Darwin deposit, Cambridge University Library) from Asa Gray to Darwin, dated 26 March 1867, acknowledging one of 28 February. He writes "You see I have printed your queries — privately — 50 copies — as the best way of putting them where useful answers may be expected. Most of them will go into the hands of the Freedman's [sic] bureau, etc. — others to persons I or Wyman may know or rely on … " The "You see" at the beginning of this extract clearly indicates that he enclosed at least one copy of his printing with the letter. We know of no surviving copy of it, but, as Asa Gray was Fisher Professor of Natural History at Harvard University at the time, it was probably printed at Cambridge or Boston, Mass. It is possible that the version printed by the Smithsonian Institution was taken from a copy of Gray's version rather than Darwin's, and if so the change in title, the omission of the date, and the Americanisms may be due to Gray rather than to the editor of their Annual Report. In the letter from George Gibbs, at the Smithsonian, quoted in our first paper, the use of the word "circular" implies a printed document.

The Freedmen's Bureau, as it was popularly known, was set up by Congress in May, 1865, as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, to handle the problems of the south derived from the civil war. Freed slaves were quite unsuitable to


Darwin's purpose, and he comments in The expression of the emotions (pp. 21–22) that "It would have been comparatively easy to have obtained information in regard to negro slaves in America; but as they have long associated with white men, such observations would have possessed little value". Asa Gray (1810–88) was the most distinguished American botanist of his day, and a frequent correspondent of Darwin's. He answered some of the queries from observations on Egyptians. Jeffries Wyman (1814–74) was a palaeontologist, mostly working on vertebrates. He did not answer the queries.

The second previously unrecorded printing came to our notice from a letter (Robin Darwin deposit) to Darwin from Robert Swinhoe, consular official and ornithologist, dated from the British Legation, Peking, 4 August 1868, referring to the publication of the queries in Notes and queries on China and Japan, a short-lived serial published in Hongkong. The queries appeared in Volume 1, No. 8, p. 105, dated 31 August 1867, in a note entitled "Signs of emotion among the Chinese" which is signed R.S. and dated Amoy, July 1867. Darwin's name does not appear; he is described as "a friend in England", and unfortunately Swinhoe does not make it clear whether the queries which he received were printed or in manuscript. The text of the queries is exactly the same as that printed by the Smithsonian, except for minor differences of punctuation and Americanisms. Darwin's letter to Swinhoe, which accompanied the queries is also in the Robin Darwin deposit. It is dated 27 February 1867.

The two manuscript copies of the queries are with some further replies to them which have recently been catalogued at Cambridge; both have one word answers appended. They are both in the same hand, that of R. Brough Smyth, of Australia, and bear the answers of Templeton Bunnett and H. B. Lane. Both are badly damaged by damp, but it is clear that, with minor differences of transcription, they are close to the text of the printed English leaflet. Both are however dated "Down, Bromley, Kent, Octr. 1867." The English leaflet has the same address, but only 1867 for date.

The four letters, two of which have copies of the English leaflet attached, are as follows:—

1. Darwin to G. H. K. Thwaites, dated only 31 January. "I enclose some printed copies of my queries on expression, with two of the more important ones a little amended. If you can stir up anyone to make a few observations on any race (tho' I well know how difficult it is to observe), I should be very obliged" (American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia). The word "printed" occurs for the first time in this letter. Letter 3 is almost certainly in reply to it, and the date would then be 1868. George Henry Kenrick Thwaites (1811–82) was director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Peradenia, Ceylon. He did not answer the queries, but did put Darwin in touch with the Rev. Samuel Owen Glenie, then chaplain at Trincomalee, who wrote concerning the weeping of elephants.

2. Darwin to B. D. Walsh, dated 14 February 1868. The content of the letter is irrelevant, but written across the top is "This is a great hobby of mine, can you aid me?". A copy of the English printing of the leaflet, without manuscript alterations, is attached (Chicago Natural History Museum). "This" clearly refers to the enclosed leaflet. Benjamin Dann Walsh (1808–69) was State Entomologist of Illinois at the time. He replied on 25 March 1868 "The questions about Expression are altogether out of my line. We have no Red Indians here" (Robin Darwin deposit).

3. Thwaites to Darwin, dated 1 April 1868. "he has put C.D.'s printed list into the hands of several persons, but without any good results so far" (Cambridge University


Library). This seems to have been in reply to Letter 1, and again the word printed is used. Travelling time for a letter to Ceylon, at this date, was between 28 and 34 days.

4. Darwin to Thwaites, dated only 26 October, in Mrs Darwin's hand but signed by Darwin. "As you have been so very kind as to assist me about my queries, I enclose a few slightly corrected copies" (American Philosophical Society). Attached to this letter at the present time is a copy of the English printing of the leaflet, without any manuscript corrections. The word "few" would imply printed copies, and, taken in conjunction with Letters 1 and 3, we would suggest a date of 1868. If we have given the correct year for Letter 1 above, then some English version was in print by 31 January 1868, but we do not know which. Letter 2 shows that the only English version in leaflet form of which copies are known was in print by 14 February 1868.

The evidence for the existence of a printed English version as a pamphlet consists of Darwin's unequivocal statement in The expression of the emotions (p. 15) "Accordingly I circulated, early in the year 1867, the following printed queries . . .". The date 1867 printed at the foot of the surviving English printed text is indication of date of composition rather than of printing. There is plenty of evidence that Darwin was circulating queries, in some form, at least as early as 22 February to Fritz Müller, 27 February to Robert Swinhoe, 28 February to Asa Gray, 7 March to A. R. Wallace, and probably 28 February to Ferdinand Müller, and to others later in that year.

We are here suggesting that Darwin was mistaken in writing that these were printed queries; that they were all in manuscript, probably in Mrs Darwin's hand; that the manuscript, which had become much altered from its early form, was not sent to be printed until very late in 1867 or even early in January 1868; and that there was only one English printed version which reached Darwin from the printers not long before 31 January 1868. The evidence is circumstantial, but we feel that, taken together, it carries considerable weight. It can be disproved if a printed English version, in leaflet form and with the earlier text is found, or if a letter conclusively dated 1867 contains the word printed.

The following is a summary of the facts, and the conclusions which we draw from them:—

1. Asa Gray to Darwin, 26 March 1867. "You see I have printed your queries." This would seem a clear indication that what Darwin had sent was in manuscript.

2. Manuscript copy, dated 1867, with letter dated 28 February [?1867] to Ferdinand Müller of Australia, both in Mrs Darwin's hand. If the leaflet was in print in February 1867, why should Mrs Darwin transcribe it?

3. Robert Swinhoe in letter to Darwin dated 4 August 1868, in reply to Darwin's of 27 February 1867, say only "with its enclosure on human expression", with no mention of printed.

4. Copy in the hand of Dyson Lacy of Australia, undated. If he had received a printed leaflet, why should he both to transcribe it when Darwin had specifically stated that the number given to each query would suffice?

5. Letter to A. R. Wallace, dated 7 March [1867] "Please return these queries as it is my standard copy". If the queries were in print, why send his key copy? Also "You must not suppose the P.S. about memory has been lately inserted". There is nothing in the printed leaflet to indicate that the sentence about memory had been lately inserted; it comes eight lines from the bottom. On the other hand in the Notes and queries on


China and Japan and the Smithsonian versions the sentence on memory comes last. An examination of the whole Darwin-Wallace correspondance published in Alfred Russel Wallace, letters and reminiscences, (1916) shows certainly that this was written in 1867 and not 1860 as given. It should come between the letters Darwin-Wallace, 26 February 1867, and Wallace-Darwin, 11 March 1867.

6. Two copies in the hand of R. Brough Smyth of Australia, dated Down, Bromley, Kent, October 1867. If he had received copies of the leaflet, why should he bother to transcribe them? Even if he was down to his last copy and needed more, where did he get the date of October from, for the leaflet bears only the year, with no month? The text of these two October copies, which had presumably evolved almost to its final form by that time, is close to that of the printed leaflet.

7. Although we now have twenty manuscript copies and related letters, the first mention of the word printed in them is probably 31 January 1868, and there is a fully dated mention of 1 April 1868. The earliest known date of despatch of a printed copy is 14 February 1868. Of the five relevant letters of 1868, two use the word "printed" and another two have attached copies of the English printing. The fifth, to T. H. Huxley, dated 30 January 1868, merely says "give Mrs Huxley the enclosed". More letters states that the enclosed was a copy of the leaflet.

If these suggestions are accepted, the list of printings now stands as follows:

1. 1867. ?Undated, but 26 March or slightly before. ?Dropped title Queries about expression for anthropological inquiry. ?Cambridge or Boston, Mass. Printed for Asa Gray. 50 copies. This is the first edition, but it probably does not follow Darwin's manuscript exactly either in spelling or punctuation. It probably bears at top or bottom "By Charles Darwin, of Down, Bromley, Kent, England". No copy is known to survive. See also No. 4 below.

2. 1867. Dated 31 August 1867. Notes and queries on China and Japan, Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 105 title "Queries about expression". Printed with a covering note by R[obert] S[winhoe], but Darwin's name does not occur. Hongkong. The manuscript from which it was printed was posted in England on 27 February 1867. This is the nearest printed approach to the original text of the copies which Darwin sent out early in 1867, and it is the first English edition as opposed to American.

3. [?1868]. Undated by printer, but before 31 January 1868. Single sheet. Dropped title Queries about expression. "Down, Bromley, Kent, 1867" at foot. No printer or place. ?London. We believe this to be the only English printing in leaflet form in Darwin's lifetime. Copies at Cambridge University Library (2 and a corrected proof), American Philosophical Society (1), Chicago Natural History Museum (1); photograph in Freeman and Gautrey (1972).

4. 1868. Ann. Rep. Smithson. Instn. for 1867, p. [324]. Title "Queries about expression for anthropological enquiry." Below title "By Charles Darwin, of Down, Bromley, Kent, England." Text probably that of No. 1.

5. 1872. The expressions of the emotions in man and animals, pp. 15–16. Also in all later editions and printings, and in translations. Text is that of No. 3 with omissions.

We are grateful to the late Sir Robin [Robert] Darwin and to the Librarian of the University Library, Cambridge, for permission to quote from manuscript material at Cambridge. We are grateful also to the Librarians of the American Philosphical Society and of the Chicago Natural History Museum for permission to quote from letters in


their archives. We are especially grateful to Mr P. Thomas Carroll, of the University of Pennsylvania, for drawing our attention to the documents in America which he was the first to record.

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