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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [7 April 1868]1



My dear Father,

We have decided that I shall go to London and talk the difficulty over with Hacon your lawyer, who I believe you consider a sensible safe man; if he wants a barrister’s opinion he could get it without difficulty2

I have seen Langstaff; he has watched carefully the faces of two adults and two babies; in all four he is perfectly certain that the first movement is the contraction of the “depressores”: in the adults as the suffering did not reach crying pitch there was no other contraction visible, but in the two babies (both of which he watched while he was vaccinating them) directly there was a sign of whimpering or beginning of crying, the little Zygomatics contracted, and slightly drew up the corners of the mouth which were depressed & then the mouth assumed an oblong oval which agrees with what Sanford said.3 he is going to watch for platysma & blushing.4

I see there is a review in the popular Science, Intellectual Observer, & G H. Lewes again in the April Fortnightly.5

I will write when I know anything; I am afraid the madness will be a sticker, as he will not stand I fear any clause on such a subject, but we must try him.

Luckily we have the clause in our partnership deeds.

Your affect son | W E Darwin

CD annotations

1.1 We … difficulty 1.3] crossed blue crayon
2.1 adults] ‘women’ interl after pencil
2.3 as … reach] del pencil; ‘both from fear & loss of child’ added above pencil
2.3 pitch … visible, 2.4] del pencil; ‘See 2d letter about adults’6 added and del pencil
3.1 I see … deeds. 5.1] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Yawning | Elephant’7 pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, 8 April [1868]. In 1868, the Tuesday before 8 April was 7 April.
William Mackmurdo Hacon was CD’s solicitor. CD had advised William to seek arbitration from a barrister regarding an agreement with his banking partner, George Atherley. See letters to W. E. Darwin, 21 March [1868] and 25 March [1868].
William refers to Charles Langstaff. See letter from W. E. Darwin, 5 March [1868] and n. 4. Sanford, first mentioned in the letter from W. E. Darwin, 5 March [1868], has not been identified.
CD described the contraction of the platysma myoides muscle, which extends over the sides of the neck from the lower part of the cheeks to just below the collar bone, in relation to the expression of fear (Expression, pp. 298–303); he discussed blushing in Expression, pp. 310–43. Langstaff was cited in both sections.
Reviews of Variation appeared in the April issues of Popular Science Review (Anon. 1868b), and the Intellectual Observer (Anon. 1868a). George Henry Lewes’s long essay, ‘Mr. Darwin’s hypotheses’, appeared in instalments between April and November in the Fortnightly Review (Lewes 1868b). Lewes had written a review of Variation in the Pall Mall Gazette ([Lewes] 1868a).


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

Lewes, George Henry. 1868b. Mr. Darwin’s hypotheses. Fortnightly Review n.s. 3: 353–73, 611–28; 4: 61–80, 492–509.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Describes the action of facial muscles at the onset of crying as observed by Langstaff.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 99
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6100,” accessed on 2 June 2023,

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