Gives Charles Bell's explanation of the contraction of the orbicularis during screaming and seeks confirmation of his view because the action is "the key-stone of a whole class of expressions". Curious to learn WB's conclusion in regard to the relation between contraction of the orbicularis and secretion of tears. Notes that voluntary contraction of the orbicularis causes no tears.
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear M
It is extremely kind of you to take so much trouble for me. I will
copy out all that Bell says, so that you need take no trouble in
referring to his works.— In the Anatomy of Expression 3
I remember noting more than 20 years ago with one of my own infants, that sometimes the first sign of a fit of passion was its naked head becoming red just before even a frown commenced. I am very anxious to have some confirmation of Bell's statement of the cause of the contraction of the orbicularis during screaming &c, as it is the key-stone of a whole class of expressions, & I am unwilling to trust to a single observer however good he may be.
I shall hereafter be very curious to hear whether you believe that the whiteness of the eyes in scrofulous ophthalmia is any way caused by the strong pressure of the orbicularis.
I shall be equally curious to learn y
With cordial thanks for your most kind assistance—I remain yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin.
P.S. | Perhaps it is worth notice that hard voluntary contraction of the Orbicularis does not cause secretion of tears.
At least several of my children contracted this muscle till their eyes ached, & their eyes were hardly moist; whilst a good yawn &c will make the tears almost overflow. Can different muscular fibrils act or is it difference of a voluntary & involuntary contraction?
- f1 6081.f1The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to William Bowman, 30 March .
- f2 6081.f2For the quoted passages from Charles Bell, see C. Bell 1844, pp. 105--6, and C. Bell 1836, p. 175. The parenthetical passage is CD's own and replaces Bell's `whether in hearty laughter, weeping, coughing, or sneezing,'. There is an annotated copy of C. Bell 1844 in the Darwin Library--CUL (see Marginalia 1: 47--9). CD quoted Bell's statements in Expression, pp. 158--9.
- f3 6081.f3When his eldest son William was born in December 1839, CD began to keep a notebook on his development (DAR 210.17; for a transcription of the notebook, which also includes CD's and Emma Darwin's observations of their other children, see Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix III). On 1 May 1840, CD recorded in the notebook: `When getting in a passion, which he often does—the blood gushing into whole skin scalp of head, is almost the very first symptom—' (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix III, p. 415). CD included this information in Expression, pp. 151--2.
- f4 6081.f4For the experimental results that substantiated Bell's claim, see Expression, pp. 160--3.
- f5 6081.f5See letter from William Bowman, 1 April .
- f6 6081.f6In Expression, p. 169, CD mentioned his children's attempts to contract these muscles forcibly.