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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   16 April [1868]1


Ap. 16

My dear William

I was very glad to get your last capital note on Expression.—2

Please attend to following point, & if it will not bother Mr. Langstaff, call his attention to it.3

Dr. Piderit, a German who has written book on expression, makes a great fuss on importance of the “depressor alæ nasi” in the expression of Crying.4

This muscle draws down & contracts the alæ of the nose. He says that its action is main characteristic of crying as opposed to laughing!! Now I think I know the pinched & drawn down look of the nose of a child who has blubbered long; but I also think that I know the look in a child with a bad cold & nose running.

Mr L. could observe this. I suspect the meaning is to contract the nostrils & thus to prevent the mucus & tears (which pass down the inside of nose) spreading over & irritating whole surface of upper lip.5 You are very right ⁠⟨⁠third of a page excised⁠⟩⁠

⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Platysma during very ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Dyspnoea.—6


The year is established by the reference to Charles Langstaff (see n. 3, below).
William had reported a series of observations by Langstaff on weeping (see letters from W. E. Darwin, 5 March [1868], [7 April 1868], and [15 April 1868]).
The reference is to Theodor Piderit and Piderit 1867. CD’s annotated copy, together with twenty handwritten pages of translation of parts of the book by William Sweetland Dallas, is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 675–7). CD cited Piderit on the contraction of certain muscles (depressores anguli oris), which draw the nose down and narrow the nostrils, as characteristic of crying (Expression, p. 152).
CD offered this explanation in Expression, p. 152.
This passage (‘⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Platysma … Dyspnoea’) is written across the page on the last sheet of the letter. William had reported the observations of Langstaff on the absence of movement of the platysma in patients suffering from dyspnoea under chloroform (see letter from W. E. Darwin, [7–15 April 1868]).


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

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Piderit, Theodor. 1867. Wissenschaftliches System der Mimik und Physiognomik. Detmold: Klingenberg’sche Buchhandlung.


Asks WED whether Langstaff could make some observations on certain facial muscles in expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 129
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6124,” accessed on 2 June 2023,

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