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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Bowman   26 January 1871

5 Clifford St

26 Jan 1871

Dear Darwin

I have fr〈om tim〉e to time seen in〈stances〉 of spasm of th〈e orbicu〉lars with lacrymation 〈    〉 tolerance of light & contracted pupil attributed to some slight external injury of which on examination I could find no physical trace whatever—1 The symptoms have been in one eye chiefly, in the other in a slighter degree—and occasionally they hav〈e〉 lasted even three or more weeks with marked remissions— I have often found an unexpec〈ted〉 want of redness or infection 〈    〉 〈e〉xamining such an 〈    〉 and occasionally but 〈by no m〉eans always hav〈e suspec〉ted that the condition was feigned—i.e. that the patient was making the worst of what had been at first a trifling injury, & by intentionally keeping the lids forcibly closed had induced the lacrymation & quasi-spasm. Such cases certainly do occur. I am now attending a workman in a factory, (sent to me by a very sympathizing master) who for a 〈    〉 has kept one of his eyes closed, the result he says of the entry of some pungent subs〈tance〉 〈    〉 the eye, bu〈t〉 〈    〉 absolutely n〈o〉 〈    〉 ye whole surface of 〈    〉 & lids under the most carefu〈l〉 examination—and I believe him to be sham〈ming〉. This however, by the way.

The redness in Donders’s cases must have been temporary infection depending on altered innervation of the coats of the vessels not inflam. as you rightly suggest.2

I think Erasmus Wilson would be a good man to 〈    〉 upon the tickling question—3 His 〈    〉 17 Henrietta 〈    〉 Square— 〈    〉 〈men〉tion me as suggesting it, if you like. What an exhaustive memoir Donders has written in reply to your question when we had that pleasant afternoon with you at Down—4

Yours very truly | W Bowman


In his letter to Bowman of [before 26] January [1871], CD asked whether he had seen spasms of the orbicular muscles causing tears, when injury to the eye itself was slight.
Bowman refers to Frans Cornelis Donders; see letter to William Bowman, [before 26] January [1871].
Wilson was a well-known dermatologist.
Bowman and Donders visited Down on 7 September 1869 (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter from William Bowman, 3 September [1869] and n. 2). The memoir that Bowman refers to is probably the letters from Donders of 27 May 1870 and 28 May 1870 (Correspondence vol. 18).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Reports his observations on the concurrence of orbicular muscle spasms, engorgement of eyes with blood, and formation of tears.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bowman, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Clifford St, 5
Source of text
DAR 160: 269
Physical description
4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7456,” accessed on 28 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19