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Letter 7142

Darwin, C. R. to Crichton-Browne, James

18 Mar 1870


JC-B’s essays are the fullest CD has received. His observations on blushing closely agree with James Paget’s. Platysma and horror: Duchenne’s statement doubtful.



March 18, 1870.

My dear Sir

It had occurred to me that you might be ill, and I was thinkingof writing to Dr. Maudsley to enquire.f1 I fully sympathise with youin the heavy losses to which you refer, and quite understand howlittle you could feel inclined to employ yourself on miscellaneoussubjects. I thank you cordially for your extremely kind note and offerof further assistance; but as I know how hard worked you must be, I willtry and be reasonable. The essays which you have sent are exactly what Iwanted and the fullest which I have received. Your results about blushingclosely agree with what Mr. Paget has observed; but all that you tellme about cerebral affections influencing the action of the skin is quitenew to me. Mr. Paget after numerous observations has noticed onewoman who blushed on the femora and other parts of the body, and I mustenquire whether she was subject to epilepsy or anything of the kind.f2I will ask two questions about your blushing cases: does the young lady whois so great a blusher blush over her arms; and does she frequentlywear short sleeves? Was the epileptic woman who blushed over theupper part of her bosom a lady, so as to have been in the habit ofwearing a low gown? With respect to the platysma I infer from yourobservations that Duchenne’s statement that its contraction expressesgreat fear or horror is extremely doubtful.f3 Our imagination easily leads usastray on such a subject. But I should be very much obliged if you wouldattend to this muscle in any patients suffering from extreme terrorand horror. With respect to the grief muscles you speak twice or thricein your MS. of the upper eyelid being angularly drawn upwards; this isquite new to me; and the suspicion has occurred to me that you may havewritten by mistake eyelid for eyebrow. I daresay I shall receive Duchenneearly next week;f4 and I shall then anxiously look for any remarks, howeverfew, which you may have made on any of the plates. Pray believe thatI feel grateful for your kindness and all the trouble which you havetaken in giving me most valuable information.

Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin.

Pray never hurry yourself in answering my questions: your apologiesmade me feel guilty.

DAR 143: 330



See letter from James Crichton-Browne, 15 March 1870. CD refers toHenry Maudsley, who had introduced Crichton-Browne to him (seeCorrespondence vol. 17, letter from Henry Maudsley, 20 May 1869).
In Expression, p. 313, CD wrote that James Paget had never himself seena blush that extended below the upper part of the chest; however, Pagethad heard of a case in which a little girl blushed on her abdomen and theupper part of her legs (Expression, p. 314).
Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne asserted that the contraction ofthe platysma, in conjunction with certain other muscles, expressedfear or horror (Duchenne 1862, pp. 95–108).
CD had lent Crichton-Browne his copy of the ‘Atlas’ to Duchenne 1862; see letter fromJames Crichton-Browne, 15 March 1870 and n. 2.
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