skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Crichton-Browne   [6 June 1870]1

With reference to figures 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11.2 I would venture with great deference to submit that my observations lead me to believe, that awakened attention, especially if accompanied by surprise or wonder is expressed is expressed by the action of the occipito-frontalis, elevation of the eyebrows &c, but that strong, sustained concentrated attention is accompanied by contraction of the corrugators of the eyebrows.

Figures 34 & 23.3 An exceedingly tragic expression, apparently produced by the powerful contraction of the muscles of the eyebrows, with some elevation of the skin of the forehead & transverse folds. This expression if perfect would produce the so-called ‘horse-shoe’ on the forehead about which Sir Walter Scott speaks in ‘Redgauntlet’.4 Mrs. Scott Siddons the actress5 has the power of producing these lines on the forehead with singular precision. She tells me that all her family have been remarkable for this power. The lines referred are if I remember rightly well seen in Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait of the great Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse.6 My brother Mr. Balfour Browne informs me that the last descendent of the Griersons of Largg (the Redgauntlets of Sir Walter Scott) prides herself on possessing the family peculiarity, the power of producing in a striking manner, the horse-shoe on the forehead.7

Figures 16. 17. 18.8 The action of the pyramidalis nasi does not convey to my mind any idea of an expressive expression. It suggests rather painful attention. In cases of profound melancholia I have frequently seen it combined in persistent action with the corrugatores superciliorum, notwithstanding Duchennes statement that they are antagonistic.9

Figures 19. & 20. The muscles of the eyebrows are constantly seen in energetic action in cases of melancholia. The lines due to the habitual contraction of this muscle are most characteristic of the physiognomy of melancholia, especially hypochondriacal-melancholia, in which grief & anxiety are felt respecting bodily health & conditions.10 Along with the contraction of the eyebrows in such cases there is a peculiar acute arching of the upper eylid which I am at a loss to understand.

Figures 30. 31. 32. & 33.11 The action of the muscles included in this group is singularly well illustrated in a form of mental disease, well known as the General Paralysis of the insane. “In this malady there is almost invariably optimism, delusions, as to wealth, rank, grandeur &c,— insane joyousness, benevolence & profusion, while its very earliest physical symptom is trembling at the corners of the mouth & outter corners of the eyes. This is a well recognised fact. Constant tremulous agitation of the inferior palpebral & great zygomatic muscles is pathognomic of the earlier stages of general paralysis. The countenance has a pleased, self-complacent & benevolent expression: As the disease advances other muscles become involved but until complete fatuity is reached, the prevailing expression is that of feeble benevolence.”12

Figure 34. To my thinking this is not a grimace but a genuine expression—mirth suppressed by voluntary effort—as when chiding a child for a ludicrous offence.13

Figure 38. Presents not the faintest trace of any lascivious feeling but rather contempt disgust, meanness.14

Figure 43.15 The action of the triangularis ori is well seen in young children in whom the angles of the the mouth are constantly depressed, as the preliminary of tears. Along with the pulling down of the angles of the mouth, there is some pouting of the lower lip.

Why does not Duchenne deal with other muscles, very influential in the expression of the emotions—such as those regulating the movements of the eyeballs, the buccinator16 (precisely analogous to the other facial muscles, in that it is attached to the lips &c.) used in laughter, & the masseter;17 which occasions the grinding & gnashing of the teeth, in extreme rage & despair.

CD annotations

1.1 With … forehead. 2.12] crossed pencil
1.4 but that … eyebrows. 1.5] ‘I suspect ‘attention” does not express what we shd call reflexion’ pencil
2.1 Figures 34 & 23.] ‘Grief Muscles’ added above, pencil
2.1 tragic] ‘tragic’ added above, pencil
2.3 This expression … ‘Redgauntlet’. 2.5] ‘Grief-Muscle Horse-shoe shape’ pencil
2.5 Scott Siddons] underl pencil
2.5 Mrs. Scott Siddons … power. 2.7] scored pencil; ‘Hereditary in’ pencil
2.8 My brother … forehead. 2.12] scored pencil; ‘Heredity’ pencil
3.1 Figures] ‘Pyramidalis nasi’ added above, pencil
3.1 Figures … expression. 3.2] scored pencil; ‘I fully agree’ pencil
3.3 melancholia] underl pencil
3.3 I have … antagonistic. 3.5] scored pencil; ‘in insane melancholic person’ pencil; ‘in persistent action with corrugator’ ink
4.1 Figures … understand. 4.6] crossed pencil
4.1 Figures 19. & 20.] ‘Grief muscles’ pencil
4.2 The lines … especially 4.3] underl pencil
4.2 due] ‘due’ added above, pencil
4.5 Along] ‘Along’ added above, pencil
4.6 arching] ‘arching’ added above, pencil
5.1 Figures 30.... 33.] ‘Zygomatic’ pencil
5.2 well known … insane. 5.3] ‘common in’ pencil
5.2 General … insane. 5.3] underl pencil
5.3 optimism] ‘optimism’ added above, pencil
5.4 joyousness] ‘joyousness’ added above, pencil
5.4 profusion] ‘profusion’ added above, pencil
5.5 outter corners 5.6] ‘outer corners’ added above, pencil
5.6 Constant … paralysis. 5.8] scored & underl pencil
5.10 fatuity] ‘fatuity’ added above, pencil
5.10 benevolence.”] before closing square bracket, pencil
5.10 End of para.: ‘I can send photograths illustrating this.’ ink, in Crichton-Browne’s hand, del ink, probably by Crichton-Browne, scored pencil
6.1 Figure 34.... offence. 6.2] crossed pencil
7.1 Figure 38.... meanness. 7.2] ‘I quite agree’ pencil
7.1 lascivious] underl pencil
8.1 The action … tears. 8.3] ‘depression triangularis ori’ pencil
8.1 in young] underl pencil
8.3 pouting] underl pencil; ‘pouting’ added below, pencil
9.2 such as … eyeballs,] ‘Eye-balls in veneration’ pencil
9.3 buccinator] underl pencil
9.4 used in laughter] underl pencil
9.4 masseter] underl pencil; ‘masseter’ pencil
9.4 grinding & gnashing 9.5] underl pencil
9.5 teeth] ‘teeth’ added above, pencil
Top of 1st and 3d page of memorandum: ‘Ablue crayon
Top of 4th page: ‘A’ ink
End of memorandum: ‘June 6 1870— Dr J. Crichton Browne’ pencil


The date is established by the annotation and by the relationship between this letter and the letter from James Crichton-Browne, 6 June 1870.
Crichton-Browne refers to photographs in the ‘Atlas’ accompanying Duchenne 1862. Figures 7 to 11 are a set illustrating the ‘muscle de l’attention’, the occipito-frontalis or frontal muscle (see Expression, pp. 24–5, for diagrams of facial muscles).
Crichton-Browne probably meant to write 24 and 23. Figures 23 and 24 are part of a set showing the action of the ‘muscle du douleur’, grief muscle (corrugator supercilii).
See W. Scott 1832, 1: 334: The furrows of the brow above the eyes became livid and almost black, and were bent into a semicircular, or rather elliptical form, above the junction of the eyebrows. I had heard such a look described in an old tale of diablerie, which it was my chance to be entertained with not long since; when this deep and gloomy contortion of the frontal muscles was not unaptly described, as forming the representation of a small horseshoe.
Reynolds’s portrait of Sarah Siddons as the tragic muse, painted in 1783 and 1784, is now at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Crichton-Browne refers to John Hutton Balfour Browne and probably to a relative of his late godmother, Elizabeth Crichton, a descendant of Robert Grierson, first baronet of Lag and Rockhall. Grierson (‘the persecutor’) is mentioned in Walter Scott’s Redgauntlet (W. Scott 1832, 1: 194 n. 6), and was the prototype for Scott’s Sir Robert Redgauntlet (ODNB).
Figures 16 to 18 are a set demonstrating the ‘muscle de l’aggression’ (pyramidalis nasi).
Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne made this statement in the text to the ‘Atlas’ to Duchenne 1862, p. 20.
Figures 19 and 20 are part of the same set as 23 and 24 (see n. 3, above). CD cited Crichton-Browne on this point in Expression, p. 185.
Figures 30 to 33 are part of a set showing the ‘muscles de la joie et de la bienveillance’ or muscles of joy and benevolence (the zygomatic and the lower orbicularis palpebrarum).
CD quoted the section in quotation marks in Expression, p. 205, but did not cite any other original source.
Figure 34 is part of the set showing the ‘muscles de la joie et de la bienveillance’ (see n. 11, above); according to the text, it shows a ‘grimace’.
Figure 38 is part of a set showing the ‘muscle de la lasciveté’ or muscle of lasciviousness (muscle transverse du nez or nasalis muscle; this muscle is not shown in CD’s diagrams in Expression, pp. 24–5).
Figure 43 is part of a set showing the ‘muscle de la tristesse’ or muscle of sadness (triangularis oris or depressor anguli oris), and according to the text shows disgust.
The buccinator is a cheek muscle used in chewing and blowing (Chambers).
The masseter is a muscle that raises the lower jaw (Chambers).


Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

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.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Scott, Walter. 1832. Redgauntlet. 2 vols. Edinburgh: Robert Cadell. London: Whittaker & Co.


Comments on various figures [in Duchenne’s Mécanisme].

Letter details

Letter no.
James Crichton-Browne
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 323, 323/1
Physical description
Amem 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7221,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

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