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Letter 7217

Darwin, C. R. to Paget, James

4 June [1870]


Asks to have observations made of a person retching violently, but ejecting nothing from stomach, in order to test relation between spasmodic contraction of orbicular muscles and tears. CD believes tears are caused by matter filling nostrils.


Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

June 4th

My dear Paget

You have been so kind in helping me that I think you willagain.—f2 Can you persuade the resident Doctor in some hospitalto observe a person retching violently, but throwing nothingfrom the stomach.— When a person vomits violently, he alwayscontracts the orbicular muscles round the eyes, & tears oftenflow. I have been discussing with, or rather enquiring from,Prof. Donders of Utrecht about the relation between the spasmodiccontraction of the orbicular muscles & the secretion of tears. Inthe case of vomiting he suspects that irritating matter isinjected into the nose & thus causes tears.f3 From my own personalexperience I do think that this is the case. Therefore what Iwant to know is whether in violent retching, with nothingejected from stomach, when the orbiculars are stronglycontracted, do the eyes fill with tears or even overflow?—f4

Pray do not acknowledge this note & believe me | Yours verysincerely | Ch. Darwin

Wellcome Library (Wellcome MS 5703/38)



The year is established by the relationship between this letter andthe letter to F. C. Donders, 3 June 1870.
For Paget’s earlier assistance to CD, see Correspondence vol. 11,letter to James Paget, 11 March [1863], Correspondence vol. 15,letter from James Paget, 9 July 1867, and Correspondence vol. 17,letter to James Paget, 29 April [1869].
CD refers to Frans Cornelis Donders. See letter from F. C. Donders,28 May 1870, and letter to F. C. Donders, 3 June [1870] and n. 5.
Paget’s reply has not been found, but see Expression, p. 165.
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