His attention was called to the mistake by Sir William Turner, to whom he had been previously indebted for other information on the anatomy of man. The error is one, as Sir William Turner points out in a letter, "which might easily arise where the writer is not minutely acquainted with human anatomy." In speaking of his correspondence with Darwin, Sir William remarks on a characteristic of Darwin's method of asking for information, namely, his care in avoiding leading questions.) This, however, I have corrected in all the copies struck off after the first lot of 2500. I daresay there will be a new edition in the course of nine months or a year, and this I will correct as well as I can. As yet the publishers have kept up type, and grumble dreadfully if I make heavy corrections. I am very far from surprised that "you have not committed yourself to full acceptation" of the evolution of man. Difficulties and objections there undoubtedly are, enough and to spare, to stagger any cautious man who has much knowledge like yourself.

I am now at work at my hobby-horse essay on Expression, and I have been reading some old notes of yours. In one you say it is easy to see that the spines of the hedgehog are moved by the voluntary panniculus. Now, can you tell me whether each spine has likewise an oblique unstriped or striped muscle, as figured by Lister? (472/2. "Expression of the Emotions," page 101.) Do you know whether the tail-coverts of peacock or tail of turkey are erected by unstriped or striped muscles, and whether these are homologous with the panniculus or with the single oblique unstriped muscles going to each separate hair in man and many animals? I wrote some time ago to Kolliker to ask this question (and in relation to quills of porcupine), and I received a long and interesting letter, but he could not answer these questions. If I do not receive any answer (for I know how busy you must be), I will understand you cannot aid me.

I heard yesterday that Paget was very ill; I hope this is not true. What a loss he would be; he is so charming a man.

P.S.--As I am writing I will trouble you with one other question. Have you seen anything or read of any facts which could induce you to think that the mind being intently and long directed to any portion of the skin (or, indeed, any organ) would influence the action of the capillaries, causing them either to contract or dilate? Any information on this head would be of great value to me, as bearing on blushing.

If I remember right, Paget seems to be a great believer in the influence of the mind in the nutrition of parts, and even in causing disease. It is awfully audacious on my part, but I remember thinking (with respect to the latter assertion on disease) when I read the passage that it seemed rather fanciful, though I should like to believe in it. Sir H. Holland alludes to this subject of the influence of the mind on local circulation frequently, but gives no clear evidence. (472/3. Ibid., pages 339 et seq.)

LETTER 472. TO W. TURNER. Down, March 29th [1871].

Forgive me for troubling you with one line. Since writing my P.S. I have read the part on the influence of the nervous system on the nutrition of parts in your last edition of Paget's "Lectures." (472/1. "Lectures on Surgical Pathology," Edition III., revised by Professor Turner, 1870.) I had not read before this part in this edition, and I see how foolish I was. But still, I should be extremely grateful for any hint or evidence of the influence of mental attention on the capillary or local circulation of the skin, or of any part to which the mind may be intently and long directed. For instance, if thinking intently about a local eruption on the skin (not on the face, for shame might possibly intervene) caused it temporarily to redden, or thinking of a tumour caused it to throb, independently of increased heart action.

LETTER 473. TO HUBERT AIRY.

(473/1. Dr. Airy had written to Mr. Darwin on April 3rd:--

"With regard to the loss of voluntary movement of the ears in man and monkey, may I ask if you do not think it might have been caused, as it is certainly compensated, by the facility and quickness in turning the head, possessed by them in virtue of their more erect stature, and the freedom of the atlanto-axial articulation? (in birds the same end is gained by the length and flexibility of the neck.) The importance, in case of danger, of bringing the eyes to help the ears would call for a quick turn of the head whenever a new sound was heard, and so would tend to make superfluous any special means of moving the ears, except in the case of quadrupeds and the like, that have great trouble (comparatively speaking) in making a horizontal turn of the head--can only do it by a slow bend of the whole neck." (473/2.

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II Page 60

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book