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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Crichton-Browne   28 March [1871]1


March 28,

My dear Sir

I am drawing near to end of my first rough draught of Essay, so that it is not at all likely I shall be tempted to break again my good resolutions of not troubling you.2 This is a wild-goose question. Have you ever suspected or seen fairly good reason to believe that the capillary circulation in any part of skin, or in any organ, is ever influenced (the vessels being either expanded or contracted) by the mind being long and intently directed to such part, owing to some insane delusion.3 Secondly, C. Vogt describes a degraded microcephalous idiot as blushing;4 Have you seen idiots blush?

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I have just read over your MS. on Blushing— it is capital— you end with the sentence— “I possess a mass of details as to blushing in morbid conditions after injury and galvanization of the sympathetic etc., which can be forwarded if desired.”5 It is not likely that this could be of service, but I should excessively like to read it, if it is separate and can be sent registered, and shall be returned registered to you. But on no account whatever would I give you the trouble to copy it. Please observe this.


The year is established by the reference to the first draft of Expression (see n. 2, below).
According to CD’s ‘Journal’, the first draft of Expression was finished on 27 April 1871 (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix II).
For CD’s invocation of a principle of ‘self-attention’ in support of his evolutionary explanation for blushing, see especially Expression, pp. 338–45. On the significance of blushing to CD’s argument in Expression, see J. Browne 1985, pp. 318–22.
CD refers to Carl Vogt and a case of blushing reported in Vogt 1867, pp. 20–1. CD referred to this case in Expression, p. 311 and n. 3. CD’s annotated copy of Vogt 1867, given to him by the author, is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 824–6); see also Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Carl Vogt, 17 April 1867.


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.

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.

Vogt, Carl. 1867. Mémoire sur les microcéphales ou hommes-singes. Reprinted from Mémoires de l’Institute national genévois, vol. 11. Geneva: Georg, Libraire de l’Institute Genevois.


Asks whether capillary circulation is ever influenced by the mind’s being directed intently to any part of the body.

Has JC-B ever seen idiots blush? JC-B’s MS on blushing is capital.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Crichton-Browne
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 335
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7635,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

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