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Darwin Correspondence Project

To F. C. Donders   21 June 1870

Down— Beckenham | Kent

June 21. 1870

My dear Sir

I have received from Dr Moore the translation of your paper, & have read it with the greatest interest. After making some extracts I am asked by Dr M. to send it to Dr Beale for publication in the October number of his Journal.1 Your information has proved incomparably fuller & more decisive than I had ventured to hope. You cannot imagine what an advantage it is to my little essay to have on this head a firm foundation. Now that I see how laborious yr. investigation has been,—I shd have regretted to have incidentally led you to employ so much of your time, did I not feel convinced that physiologists will think the results, independendly of the particular point in question, worth much labour. Several of yr. incidental remarks have also interested me much. I had intended publishing my essay on expression as part of a larger work nearly completed;2 but I believe that it will be too large, & that I must keep back for a short time, my essay3

I do not know whether it is worth mentioning, but I think that the closing of the eyelids serves in part to prevent the eyes suffering from vibrations, I observe that dogs & cats when crushing a bone, close their eyelids. Various kinds of monkeys which do not close their eyelids when screaming close them when sneezing.4

With the most cordial thanks for your extreme kindness, believe me my dear Sir | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin.


William Daniel Moore had translated Donders’s article on the circulation of the eye (Donders 1870a; see letters from F. C. Donders, 17 May 1870 and 27 May 1870). Lionel Smith Beale edited Archives of Medicine from 1857 to 1870 (ODNB). Moore’s translation of Donders’s article did appear in Archives of Medicine (Donders 1870b); there is an annotated copy of the translation in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD cited the article in Expression, p. 160.
The ‘larger work’ that CD refers to is Descent.
Expression was eventually published more than a year after Descent, in 1872.
CD mentioned these examples in Expression, p. 163.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.


Comments on translation of FCD’s paper ["On the action of the eyelids", Arch. Med. 5 (1870): 20–38].

Speculates that closing eyelids may protect eyes from vibrations.

Discusses publication of Expression.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frans Cornelis (Franciscus Cornelius) Donders
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7238,” accessed on 31 October 2020,

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