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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Ogle   [10–17 November 1870]1

34 Clarges Street | Piccadilly.

Dear Mr. Darwin

Many thanks to you for your kind letter and good wishes.2

I am afraid I must plead guilty to a very stupid blunder in having attributed to the Himalayan rabbits the necessities which only beset wild breeds.3 As regards the animal with white spots which alone were affected while the colored parts escaped I had considered the case, and thought there did not seem any actual evidence that poison had anything to do with the affection, or had indeed been taken.4 I find cases recorded, in which white spots suffer, and the cause is supposed to be poison—others, in which the same effect is attributed to poison and to exposure to sunlight; and a third group, more numerous, in which the same effect is supposed to have been produced by lightning.

In none of them is there any positive evidence either of poison, or of lightning, while in all, the animals appear to have been most probably, and in some certainly, exposed to great sunlight. I fancy therefore that it is more likely that this one cause produced the similar ill effects in all the cases, than that the causes should have been so heterogeneous. In the case of the animals struck, as it was supposed, with lightning, it is expressly noted (Phil. Trans. 1776) that only the white parts on the back and flanks were affected, the equally white patches on the belly escaping as also even did white parts on the upper side if the hair in them was very long and curly.5 This is just what might be expected, if sunlight caused the ill effects; but seems unintelligible on the supposition that either poison or lightning was the origin of the mischief.

I will most certainly make a point of observing the condition of the Platysma in any cases of severe dyspnœa which I may find— I have already seen two in the Hospital since I received your letter—one a case of emphysema—the other of cardiac dyspnœa— In neither could I detect any action of this muscle. Certainly there was no transverse wrinkling of the neck, nor drawing of the skin about the corners of the mouth.6

It appears however very doubtful whether the contraction of this muscle does, as the anatomical books assert, wrinkle the skin transversely. The statement7

CD annotations

1.1 Many thanks … considered the case, 2.4] crossed pencil
4.1 I will … transversely. 5.2] crossed pencil; after opening square bracket blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Dom. Animals8 | (Wyman of Boston)9 | (Platysma) | I suppose correct | Dyspnœa’ pencil


The date range is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to William Ogle, 9 November 1870 and 17 November [1870].
Letter to William Ogle, 9 November 1870
See letter to William Ogle, 9 November 1870, and Ogle 1870a, p. 283 n. 1.
The reference is to an article about the effects of lightning on a bullock in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Lambert and Green 1776).
CD included this information from Ogle, as well as some of his later observations of those experiencing difficulty breathing in Expression, p. 301.
For CD’s account of the platysma myoides, including several of Ogle’s observations, see Expression, pp. 298–303.


Relates instances of rabbits suffering from a condition which affects only the patches of white on their fur.

Will make observations on the platysma for CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Ogle
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Clarges St, 34
Source of text
DAR 173: 4
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7365,” accessed on 24 February 2019,

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