To William Bowman 30 July 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
On the great principle that a man who has done one a kindness will probably do another I want to beg a little information from you.1 Sir C. Bell says that when an infant screams violently, it closes the orbicular muscles so as to compress the eyes & prevent them becoming gorged with blood owing to the retarded circulation. He states that on opening the eyelids of a screaming infant he has actually seen the tissues become gorged with blood. He explains on this same principle of protection the firm closing of the eyes in violent coughing, sneezing &c.2 Now as I have not elsewhere met with a similar remark I shd esteem it a great favour if you wd inform me whether you have observed any thing of the kind, & believe in Sir C. Bell’s statement.
Expression in animals & men is at present a hobby of mine & I think I shall probably utilize my notes made during several years.3 This leads me to ask one other question; when any one (not short-sighted) looks intently at a distant object he generally contracts his eyebrows & the muscles going to the upper lip, which raises the cheeks & thus apparently compresses the eye slightly. Now do you suppose that these movements serve merely to contract the aperture of the eye & protect it from superfluous light, or does slight pressure aid the distinct vision of a distant object?
After long delay from ill-health I have at last printed of a book, including a chapter on inheritance, on which subject you formerly so much aided me.4
I hope you will forgive me for troubling you, & pray believe me yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin
Plans to write a book on expression. Questions WB on orbicular muscle in screaming infant and function of muscle contractions in looking at a distant object.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5589,” accessed on 12 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5589