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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Crichton-Browne   18 March 1870


March 18, 1870.

My dear Sir

It had occurred to me that you might be ill, and I was thinking of writing to Dr. Maudsley to enquire.1 I fully sympathise with you in the heavy losses to which you refer, and quite understand how little you could feel inclined to employ yourself on miscellaneous subjects. I thank you cordially for your extremely kind note and offer of further assistance; but as I know how hard worked you must be, I will try and be reasonable. The essays which you have sent are exactly what I wanted and the fullest which I have received. Your results about blushing closely agree with what Mr. Paget has observed; but all that you tell me about cerebral affections influencing the action of the skin is quite new to me. Mr. Paget after numerous observations has noticed one woman who blushed on the femora and other parts of the body, and I must enquire whether she was subject to epilepsy or anything of the kind.2 I will ask two questions about your blushing cases: does the young lady who is so great a blusher blush over her arms; and does she frequently wear short sleeves? Was the epileptic woman who blushed over the upper part of her bosom a lady, so as to have been in the habit of wearing a low gown? With respect to the platysma I infer from your observations that Duchenne’s statement that its contraction expresses great fear or horror is extremely doubtful.3 Our imagination easily leads us astray on such a subject. But I should be very much obliged if you would attend to this muscle in any patients suffering from extreme terror and horror. With respect to the grief muscles you speak twice or thrice in your MS. of the upper eyelid being angularly drawn upwards; this is quite new to me; and the suspicion has occurred to me that you may have written by mistake eyelid for eyebrow. I daresay I shall receive Duchenne early next week;4 and I shall then anxiously look for any remarks, however few, which you may have made on any of the plates. Pray believe that I feel grateful for your kindness and all the trouble which you have taken in giving me most valuable information.

Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin.

Pray never hurry yourself in answering my questions: your apologies made me feel guilty.


See letter from James Crichton-Browne, 15 March 1870. CD refers to Henry Maudsley, who had introduced Crichton-Browne to him (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from Henry Maudsley, 20 May 1869).
In Expression, p. 313, CD wrote that James Paget had never himself seen a blush that extended below the upper part of the chest; however, Paget had heard of a case in which a little girl blushed on her abdomen and the upper part of her legs (Expression, p. 314).
Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne asserted that the contraction of the platysma, in conjunction with certain other muscles, expressed fear or horror (Duchenne 1862, pp. 95–108).
CD had lent Crichton-Browne his copy of the ‘Atlas’ to Duchenne 1862; see letter from James Crichton-Browne, 15 March 1870 and n. 2.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Duchenne, Guillaume Benjamin Amand. 1862. Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, ou analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions. 1 vol. and ‘Atlas’ of plates. Paris: Ve Jules Renouard, Libraire.

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


JC-B’s essays are the fullest CD has received. His observations on blushing closely agree with James Paget’s. Platysma and horror: Duchenne’s statement doubtful.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Crichton-Browne
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 330
Physical description
C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7142,” accessed on 18 July 2024,

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