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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Ogle   9 November 1870

Down, Beckenham, Kent. S.E.

Nov. 9. 1870.

My dear Dr. Ogle,

I have read your paper with the greatest possible interest.1 It will be extremely curious if your views are confirmed and you are able to explain (not to mention more important points) so many odd little details about the colouring of animals. I have no distinct evidence of the white pigs, sheep, etc. eating the poisonous herbs; but if you will look to the facts given in Vol. 2 p. 337 of my Var. of Dom. animals, you will see that the white parts alone are affected, and this does not seem to agree with your view.2 By the way, you speak as if the Himalayan rabbit had to provide for its own food when adult, though no doubt you know that it is an artificial Var:3 I read many years ago Dr Stark’s paper, and often wondered over the subject, and this has enhanced my interest in your paper.4 I hope you will continue your investigation. Would it not be possible to hear of an Albino dog (or some animal at the Zoological Gardens) and it would not be difficult to test a dog’s power of smell.

And now I want to beg a little favour of you: I have received conflicting statements about the platysma myoides being brought into strong action in persons suffering from severe dyspnœa;5 would you kindly observe this point for me? I believe that the contraction of this muscle is easily perceived by the transverse wrinkles on the neck and by the skin near the corners of the mouth being drawn down. I can reconcile the discrepancies between good authorities on this point only by supposing that this muscle acts only during certain forms of dyspnœa.6

I have had no communication with you since hearing, about a year and a half ago, that you had been most dangerously ill;7 and I rejoiced sincerely at your recovery. Since then I have read one or two capital papers by you on the Fertility of flowers.8 Yours very Sincerely. | Charles Darwin.

P.S. The contraction of the Platysma interests me in relation to expression, which is a hobby-horse of mine,— this muscle is said to contract under great terror. I cannot even positively ascertain whether this is true.— One Doctor declared he had seen it violently contracted in a man with injured brain, who was unconscious and screamed incessantly.9 In fact this muscle is the bane of existence!


CD refers to Ogle 1870a. See letter from William Ogle, [before 9 November 1870] and n. 2.
Ogle discussed the foraging of Himalayan rabbits as if they lived and foraged in the wild (Ogle 1870a, pp. 280–1, 283–4).
James Stark researched the odour-holding properties of differently coloured substances (Stark 1834). Ogle referred to the paper in Ogle 1870a, p. 286.
For the conflicting statements regarding the relation of the platysma myoides, a sheet of muscle in the neck extending from the collar bone to the lower part of the cheek, and dypsnoea (difficulty in breathing), see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to James Crichton-Browne, 22 May 1869 and n. 6.
See Expression, pp. 301–3, for CD’s discussion and conclusion about the relationship between the platysma myoides and dypsnoea.
The last extant letter from Ogle prior to his letter of [before 9 November 1870] is his letter of [after 7 July 1869] (Correspondence vol. 17).
Copies of Ogle 1870b and 1870c are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The doctor CD refers to may have been James Paget, who had offered to make observations of the platysma in patients under the influence of chloroform (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter from James Paget, 9 July 1867). See also Correspondence vol. 17, letter to James Crichton-Browne, 22 May 1869 and n. 6.


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

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

Stark, James. 1834. Historical account of experiments regarding the influence of colour on heat, the deposition of dew, and odours. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 17: 65–98.

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


Has read WO’s paper [see 7361] with great interest. If WO’s views are confirmed he will be able to explain many odd little details about the colouring of animals.

Can WO observe if the platysma myoides is brought into strong action in people suffering from severe dyspnoea?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Ogle
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 193
Physical description
C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7364,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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