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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   8 April [1868]1


April 8th

My dear William

I hope that you will thank Mr. Langstaff very sincerely for me for his capital observations.2 It is invaluable having an anatomist who will observe expression; & he must have a rare facility for observation, for every one else has found it excessively difficult to remember & observe.— Will you ask him (& tell me) what was the occasion during which the two adults were observed with their “depressores anguli oris” contracted.— You say that the children were observed during vaccination.—

Ask Mr. L. to observe if he has the chance, any child who is trying not to cry, whether the eyebrows do not sometimes become oblique, with the transverse wrinkles extending only across the middle of the forehead:3 I now feel sure of the fact; yet I shd like to have so good a witness.— I presume Mr. L. would not object to my quoting him, if, as I believe, I shd. wish to do so.

I have asked some London Surgeons to observe about the Platysma; & one of them rather stupidly has inserted my question in one of the medical Journals.—4 Paget tells me he has never had an opportunity of observing since I asked him, though plenty previously.—5

Bowman, also, I see is in earnest & will observe how far Sir C. Bell is accurate about the conjunctiva of the eye becoming gorged with blood, if the eyelids of a violently screaming infant or young child are forcibly opened, & thus relieved of the protective pressure of the orbicularis.—6 Did I tell you about the Elephant?7 You know that I believe that there is a relation between the contraction of the orbicularis & the secretion of tears (but Bowman seems rather puzzled what the relation is); & we know, according to Bell, what the relation is between screaming & the contraction of the orbicularis. Now the elephant is almost the sole quadruped which weeps—so I asked at Zoolog. Gardens, whether the elephants closed their eyelids when trumpeting violently: they did not know, but soon made both trumpet, & by Jove they conspicuously each time contracted firmly the orbicularis at each violent expiration.—

Don’t forget to observe about suppressed yawn & the depressores,—that was8third of page excised


I have written the foregoing separately, in case you shd like to show or read it to Mr. L.—

I am heartily rejoiced that your affairs progress.—9

I have seen all the Reviews, except that in Intellectua Observer— —10

There is rather good one by Asa Gray in the Nation in U. States, where they are going to bring out an Edition.—11

On the whole Pangenesis has got on pretty well—12

My dear old fellow | C. D.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. E. Darwin, 5 March [1868].
CD refers to Charles Langstaff. See letters from W. E. Darwin, 5 March [1868] and n. 4, and [7 April 1868].
CD discussed the obliqueness of the eyebrows and the transverse wrinkles across the forehead during the expression of grief in Expression, pp. 179–93.
CD’s query to London surgeons appeared in the 4 April 1868 issue of the British Medical Journal 1 (1868): 332 (see letter from St G. J. Mivart, 6 April 1868 and n. 2).
For James Paget’s initial response to CD’s enquiry, see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from James Paget, 9 July 1867.
See letter from William Bowman, 1 April [1868]. CD also refers to Charles Bell.
See letter to W. E. Darwin, [15 March 1868] and n. 7. CD did not discuss suppressed yawning in Expression; however, he remarked that ‘laughter is suppressed by the firm contraction of the orbicular muscles of the mouth, which prevents the great zygomatic and other muscles from drawing the lips backwards and upwards’ (Expression, p. 214).
[A. Gray] 1868. See Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Asa Gray, [after 17 September 1867]. The US edition of Variation was published in April 1868.
CD’s ‘provisional hypothesis of pangenesis’ was presented in Variation 2: 357–404.


Thanks C. L. Langstaff for his observations relating to expression. Has requested observations on the platysma. Discusses the actions of other facial muscles, especially during crying. [Encloses 5828.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 124, 128

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6103,” accessed on 16 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16