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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Bowman   1 April [1868]1

5 Clifford Street

Ap 1⁠⟨⁠  ⁠⟩⁠

My dear Mr Darwin

I was so sorry ⁠⟨⁠not⁠⟩⁠ to see you— I hope I shall sometime.2

Can you without inconvenience give me a reference to Bell’s exact words— I sought for them before ineffectually—3

The matter you ask about shall be fully examined— I shall have great pleasure in ascertaining all I can on a subject so interesting to you. It is a very complex one how ⁠⟨⁠2 or 3 words missing⁠⟩⁠ much ⁠⟨⁠1 or 2 words missing⁠⟩⁠

⁠⟨⁠1 or 2 words missing⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠exc⁠⟩⁠essive photophobia ⁠⟨⁠in what is⁠⟩⁠ called scrofulous ophthalmia4 in children, when the light is so very painful that weeks or months it is constantly excluded by the most forcible closure of the lids— I have often been struck by the paleness of the eyes on forcibly opening the lids—not unnatural paleness, but an absence of the redness that one would have expected when the surface is somewhat inflamed, as is then usually the case—viz with small ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ specks on the cornea5

Does Bell ⁠⟨⁠1 or 2 words missing⁠⟩⁠ at the moment ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ is pale & is then seen to become gorged with blood—or is it found gorged?— In such circumstances the whole head & face is usually turgid with the frantic passion of the infant resisting violence.

Yours very truly | W Bowman

CD annotations

1.1 I … much 3.3] crossed pencil
5.1 Does … violence. 5.3] crossed pencil
Top of letter: ‘Expression’ pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to William Bowman, 30 March [1868] and 2 April [1868].
Bowman had been away during CD’s visit to London in March 1868 (see letter to William Bowman, 30 March [1868]).
Bowman refers to Charles Bell. See letter to William Bowman, 30 March [1868] and n. 3.
Scrofulous opthalmia: inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva associated with tuberculosis (Dorland’s medical dictionary).
In Expression, pp. 161–2 n. 16, CD quoted Bowman’s observation. See also letter to William Bowman, 2 April [1868].


Dorland’s medical dictionary: Dorland’s illustrated medical dictionary. By William Alexander Newman Dorland. 30th edition. Philadelphia, Pa.: W. B. Saunders. 2003.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


Asks for precise reference in Charles Bell to subject of CD’s question. Agrees to assist CD’s investigation. Asks about Bell’s observations on eyes engorged with blood. Has noticed that eyes of children with excessive photophobia tend to be pale when forced open.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bowman, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Clifford St, 5
Source of text
DAR 160: 268
Physical description
3pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6079,” accessed on 22 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16