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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Paget   4 June [1870]1

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

June 4th

My dear Paget

You have been so kind in helping me that I think you will again.—2 Can you persuade the resident Doctor in some hospital to observe a person retching violently, but throwing nothing from the stomach.— When a person vomits violently, he always contracts the orbicular muscles round the eyes, & tears often flow. I have been discussing with, or rather enquiring from, Prof. Donders of Utrecht about the relation between the spasmodic contraction of the orbicular muscles & the secretion of tears. In the case of vomiting he suspects that irritating matter is injected into the nose & thus causes tears.3 From my own personal experience I do think that this is the case. Therefore what I want to know is whether in violent retching, with nothing ejected from stomach, when the orbiculars are strongly contracted, do the eyes fill with tears or even overflow?—4

Pray do not acknowledge this note & believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to F. C. Donders, 3 June 1870.
CD refers to Frans Cornelis Donders. See letter from F. C. Donders, 28 May 1870, and letter to F. C. Donders, 3 June [1870] and n. 5.
Paget’s reply has not been found, but see Expression, p. 165.


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.


Asks to have observations made of a person retching violently, but ejecting nothing from stomach, in order to test relation between spasmodic contraction of orbicular muscles and tears. CD believes tears are caused by matter filling nostrils.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Paget, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
Wellcome Collection (MS.5703/38)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7217,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

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