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Darwin Correspondence Project


To William Turner   28 March [1871]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

March 28th

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your kind note & especially for your offer of sending me some time corrections, for which I shall be truly grateful.—2 I know that there are many blunders, to which I am very liable.— There is a terrible one confusing the supra-condyloid foramen with another one. This, however, I have corrected in all the copies struck off after the first lot of 2500.—3

I daresay there will be a new Edition in the course of 9 months or year, & this I will correct, as well as I can. As yet, the publishers have kept up type & grumble dreadfully if I make heavy corrections.—4 I am very far from surprised that “you have not committed yourself to full acceptation” of the evolution of man.— Difficulties & objections there undoubtedly are enough & to spare to stagger any very cautious man who has much knowledge like yourself.—

I am now at work at my hobby-horse essay on Expression, & I have been reading some old notes of yours.5 In one you say, it is easy to see that the spines of the Hedge-hog are moved by the voluntary panniculus.6 Now can you tell me whether each spine has likewise an oblique unstriped or striped muscle as figured by Lister?7 Do you know whether the tail-covert of peacock or tail of Turkey are erected by unstriped or striped muscles, & whether these are homologous with the panniculus or with the single oblique unstriped muscles going to each separate hair in man & many animals?8 I wrote some time ago to Kölliker to ask this question (& in relation to quills of Porcupine) & I received a long & interesting letter, but he cd. not answer these questions.9 If I do not receive any answer (for I know how busy you must be) I will understand you cannot aid me

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

I heard yesterday that Paget was very ill: I hope this is not true.10 What a loss he wd be: he is so charming a man.

P.S. As I am writing I will trouble you with one other question.— Have you seen anything or read of any facts, which would induce you to think that the mind being intently & long directed to any portion of the skin (or indeed any organ) would influence the action of the capillaries, causing them either to contract or dilate? Any information on this head wd be of great value to me,—as bearing on Blushing.11

If I remember right Paget seems to be a great believer in the influence of the mind in the nutrition of parts & even in causing disease.—12 It is awfully audacious on my part, but I remember thinking (with respect to the latter assertion on disease). when I read the passage, that it seemed rather fanciful, though I shd. like to believe in it.—

Sir H. Holland alludes to this subject frequently, of the influence of the mind on local circulation, but gives no clear evidence.—13


The year is established by CD’s reference to his correction of errors in Descent (see n. 3, below).
Turner’s note has not been found, but evidently included an offer to send corrections for Descent.
CD refers to corrections made to the second printing of Descent in March 1871. See letter to George Busk, 12 March [1871] and n. 3.
In his letter to H. E. Darwin of 20 March 1871, CD mentioned that corrections to the second printing of Descent cost £128. CD had also received corrections from his German translator Julius Victor Carus, most of which appeared in the third printing (see letter from J. V. Carus, 15 March 1871 and n. 2).
CD refers to Expression.
See Correspondence vol. 15, letter from William Turner, 8 February 1867. CD mentioned the movement of hedgehog quills by the panniculus carnosus in Expression, p. 101.
CD refers to Joseph Lister and Lister 1853, plate VI, figs. 1 and 2.
Although Turner’s reply to this letter has not been found, he evidently sent CD an extract from Franz Leydig’s textbook of histology (Leydig 1857; see Expression, p. 101 n. 18). In Expression, p. 103, CD referred to Leydig 1857 for information on the muscular network in the deeper layers of the skin of adult birds.
Neither CD’s letter to Rudolf Albert von Kölliker nor Kölliker’s reply has been found.
CD refers to James Paget. See letter to William Ogle, 28 [March 1871] and n. 3.
See also letter to James Crichton-Browne, 28 March [1871] and n. 3.
Following his recovery, Paget gave a lecture in which he discussed the relation between tiredness and susceptibility to disease, using his own case as an example (S. Paget ed. 1901, p. 245).
In Chapters on mental physiology (Holland 1858, p. 111), Henry Holland wrote: The effect upon the circulation of a part from the consciousness suddenly directed and fixed upon it, is often so obvious and immediate, that we might, perhaps, suppose the nerves belonging appropriately to the vascular system to be engaged in producing them. This passage is scored and underlined in CD’s copy in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 386).

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Turner, William
Sent from
Source of text
Edinburgh University Library (Dc.2.96/5/4a)
Physical description


Discusses errors in Descent. Not surprised that WT is not committed to full acceptance of evolution of man.

At work on Expression. Asks about muscles that raise spines of hedgehog and tail coverts of peacock. Asks about influence of mind on capillaries with regard to blushing. Mentions views of James Paget on influence of the mind on nutrition of body parts.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7632,” accessed on 13 February 2016,