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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Paget   4 June [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

June 4th

My dear Paget

You have been so kind in helping me that I think you will again.—2 Can you persuade the resident Doctor in some hospital to observe a person retching violently, but throwing nothing from the stomach.— When a person vomits violently, he always contracts the orbicular muscles round the eyes, & tears often flow. I have been discussing with, or rather enquiring from, Prof. Donders of Utrecht about the relation between the spasmodic contraction of the orbicular muscles & the secretion of tears. In the case of vomiting he suspects that irritating matter is injected into the nose & thus causes tears.3 From my own personal experience I do think that this is the case. Therefore what I want to know is whether in violent retching, with nothing ejected from stomach, when the orbiculars are strongly contracted, do the eyes fill with tears or even overflow?—4

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


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the 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.


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.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Paget (1st baronet)
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Library (Wellcome MS 5703/38)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7217,” accessed on 23 May 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18