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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Ogle   17 November [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Nov. 17.

My dear Dr Ogle

I am very much obliged about the platysma; & hope that you will keep the subject a little before your mind, more especially as I see that you are quite au fait about expression. It is new to me that this muscle can ever be brought into voluntary action.2 I have been coming to the same conclusion as you have, viz that this muscle has nothing to do with expression.3 Dr C-Brown tells me that it does not contract with insane patients under extreme terror.4 Yet I was unwilling to think that the belief was quite a delusion, owing to Duchenne’s striking photographs & some older statements to the same effect.5 (possibly the source of whole belief) If Gratiolet’s statement cd be trusted that this muscle contracts under dyspnoea, it is conceivable that it might act under terror from association with panting breath.6 One of my sons in sounding certain notes on the flute draws the corners of his mouth much backwards & downwards, & then I can see radiating longitudinal furrows on each side of his neck.7 A clever surgeon, who has attended to these subjects, tells me that this is produced by another muscle (name forgotten) which is attached below to the clavicles.8 You will know all about this, & at some future time I shd be grateful to hear whether there is such a muscle, the contraction of which wd produce the longitudinal furrows.

I cannot yet give up the ghost about white colour & vegetable poisons. If you cd prove that white animals were deficient in the power of smell I shd be more staggered.9 I cannot as yet think that so many observers have been deceived. I wd suggest, (if you are willing, as I hope, to continue the subject,) that you shd send yr paper to Prof. Wyman of Boston, U. States, with a letter asking him if he cd get it observed in Florida, by some careful man whether if the paint-root is given to black & white pigs, both will eat it.10

With many thanks for yr very interesting letter yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I wonder whether white pigs find truffles & pig-nuts as well as black pigs.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to William Ogle, 9 November 1870.
CD had enquired about the platysma myoides muscle in his letter of 9 November 1870. Some of what Ogle wrote in reply was in the now missing portion of his letter of [10–17 November 1870].
See Expression, pp. 298–303.
CD refers to Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne, and photographs in Duchenne 1862. There is an annotated copy of Duchenne 1862 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 209–10). See also Correspondence vol. 17, letter to James Crichton-Browne, 22 May 1869. CD included a photograph of Duchenne’s illustrating the platysma myoides in Expression, plate VII, figure 2, as well as a drawing copied from another photograph (Expression., p. 299).
See letter to William Ogle, 9 November 1870 and n. 5. CD refers to Louis Pierre Gratiolet and Gratiolet [1865], p. 167. There is an annotated copy of Gratiolet [1865] in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 345–7).
In Expression, p. 302, CD mentioned the action of the muscle in ‘a young man’ playing the flute. See also Correspondence vol. 17, letter to James Crichton-Browne, 8 June 1869. The flutist was CD’s son Francis (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Francis Darwin, 25 March [1871]).
The surgeon and muscle have not been identified. CD had earlier mentioned the muscle in his letter to James Crichton-Browne, 8 June 1869.
CD had given information from Jeffries Wyman about the resistance of black pigs to a poison in the southern United States in both Origin 3d ed., p. 12, and Variation 2: 227 and 336. Wyman travelled to Florida eight times between 1852 and 1874 (ANB).


ANB: American national biography. Edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. 24 vols. and supplement. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999–2002.

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.

Gratiolet, Pierre. [1865.] De la physionomie et des mouvements d’expression. Paris: J. Hetzel.

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.

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

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


Thanks WO for information on platysma, which he did not know could be brought into voluntary action. Is coming to believe it has nothing to do with expression.

On the relation between white colouring and susceptibility to poisonous plants, CD suggests WO send his paper to J. Wyman and propose he investigate whether white as well as black pigs will eat paint-root.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Ogle
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.5: 4 (EH 88205902)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7373,” accessed on 14 July 2024,

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