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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin   9 December [1872]1

Dec 9

Dear Emma

I cant say exactly till I have seen Cumbd what is the latest time they can put off their coming here. I think myself that they could stay in their house as long as they like as all the girls will be away & Barret could begin the dismantling without disturbing them2

This is for Charles

Charles Landseer was saying to me yesterday that he had asked Mr Wood to enquire from you if dogs had the orbicularis but had heard nothing from him.3 It was in reference to Sir C. B. & he said that he was unable to make out the muscle in the dog himself & wanted to know if it existed.4

I referred him to p. 222 in your book but looking at it again I see it does not refer to animals generally as I thought it did when I was talking to him.5 Have you any information you can give him.

I hav’nt seen the dark horses letter in the spec.6

If you dont come tomorrow Wm will come to Down—7


Tithes enclosed8


The year is established by the reference to the Hensleigh Wedgwoods’ move and to CD’s plan to visit Erasmus Darwin on 10 December (see nn. 2 and 7, below).
‘Cumbd’ is a reference to 34 Cumberland Place, home of Hensleigh and Fanny Wedgwood and their daughters Frances Julia, Katherine Euphemia, and Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood. In 1872, the Hensleigh Wedgwoods decided to leave London and move to a house near Down (Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, p. 301); it is possible that the ‘dismantling’ was connected with their move. Barret has not been identified.
John Wood was professor of surgery at King’s College, London. In Expression, p. 181 n. 3, CD stated that his view of the movement of the facial muscles, including the orbicularis, was confirmed by Mr. J. Wood. There is no evidence that Wood had contacted CD with regard to Landseer’s question. The orbicularis muscle serves to close the eyelids. In Expression, pp. 163–71, CD had discussed its protective purpose; he also noted that cats and monkeys closed their eyelids when sneezing but that dogs did not do so when barking loudly (p. 171).
Landseer referred to Charles Bell and his work on expression (Bell 1844). CD had discussed Bell’s explanation of the action of the orbicularis in Expression, pp. 158–62.
In Expression, p. 222, CD challenged Bell’s view that the corrugator muscles that draw the eyebrows together to produce a frown were peculiar to humans, and argued that the corrugators and the orbicularis were more developed in humans and the anthropoid apes through incessant use (ibid., n. 1).
Erasmus may refer to ‘Mr. Darwin on expression’, a letter from ‘L. D.’ to the editor, in the Spectator, 7 December 1872, p. 1553. The letter raised objections to the review of Expression (‘Mr. Darwin on animal expression’ and ‘Mr. Darwin on involuntary expression and blushing’, Spectator, 23 and 30 November 1872, pp. 1485–6, 1519–20), in which it was suggested that the term ‘expression’ be reserved for voluntary movements only.
CD did not visit London on 10 December. According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), William Erasmus Darwin went to Down that day. CD had originally planned to travel to London on 7 December, but was prevented from doing so by illness (see letter to R. F. Cooke, 7 December [1872]). He eventually stayed with Erasmus from 17 to 22 or 23 December and was ‘unwell all time’ (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
An entry in CD’s Account books–banking account (Down House MS) for 10 December 1872 records a payment of £17 11s. under the heading ‘Tithe Erasmus’. This probably refers to the ‘Castle Morton Tithes’ listed in CD’s Investment books (Down House MSS). CD and each of his five siblings inherited one sixth of a ‘Castle Morton trust’ from their father, Robert Waring Darwin, in 1837. The trust was evidently related to a property of CD’s grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood I, in the parish of Castle Morton, Worcestershire. (Robert Waring Darwin’s Investment book, Down House MS.)


Bell, Charles. 1844. The anatomy and philosophy of expression as connected with the fine arts. Preface by George Bell, and an appendix on the nervous system by Alexander Shaw. 3d edition, enlarged. London: John Murray.

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

Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1980. The Wedgwood circle, 1730–1897: four generations of a family and their friends. London: Studio Vista.


Charles Landseer would like to know whether dogs have orbicular muscles.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B124–5
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8666,” accessed on 20 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20