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[8] `The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. ii. p. 6. The inheritance of habitual gestures is so important for us, that I gladly avail myself of Mr. F. Galton's permission to give in his own words the following remarkable case:--"The following account of a habit occurring in individuals of three consecutive generations {footnote continues:} is of peculiar interest, because it occurs only during sound sleep, and therefore cannot be due to imitation, but must be altogether natural. The particulars are perfectly trustworthy, for I have enquired fully into them, and speak from abundant and independent evidence. A gentleman of considerable position was found by his wife to have the curious trick, when he lay fast asleep on his back in bed, of raising his right arm slowly in front of his face, up to his forehead, and then dropping it with a jerk, so that the wrist fell heavily on the bridge of his nose. The trick did not occur every night, but occasionally, and was independent of any ascertained cause. Sometimes it was repeated incessantly for an hour or more. The gentleman's nose was prominent, and its bridge often became sore from the blows which it received. At one time an awkward sore was produced, that was long in healing, on account of the recurrence, night after night, of the blows which first caused it. His wife had to remove the button from the wrist of his night-gown as it made severe scratches, and some means were attempted of tying his arm.

"Many years after his death, his son married a lady who had never heard of the family incident. She, however, observed precisely the same peculiarity in her husband; but his nose, from not being particularly prominent, has never as yet suffered from the blows. The trick does not occur when he is half-asleep, as, for example, when dozing in his arm-chair, but the moment he is fast asleep it is apt to begin. It is, as with his father, intermittent; sometimes ceasing for many nights, and sometimes almost incessant during a part of every night. It is performed, as it was by his father, with his right hand.

"One of his children, a girl, has inherited the same trick. She performs it, likewise, with the right hand, but in a slightly modified form; for, after raising the arm, she does not allow the wrist to drop upon the bridge of the nose, but the palm of the half-closed hand falls over and down the nose, striking it rather rapidly. It is also very intermittent with this child, not occurring for periods of some months, but sometimes occurring almost incessantly." {end of long footnote}

Another curious instance of an odd inherited movement, associated with the wish to obtain an object, will be given in the course of this volume.

There are other actions which are commonly performed under certain circumstances, independently of habit, and which seem to be due to imitation or some sort of sympathy. Thus persons cutting anything with a pair of scissors may be seen to move their jaws simultaneously with the blades of the scissors. Children learning to write often twist about their tongues as their fingers move, in a ridiculous fashion. When a public singer suddenly becomes a little hoarse, many of those present may be heard, as I have been assured by a gentleman on whom I can rely, to clear their throats; but here habit probably comes into play, as we clear our own throats under similar circumstances. I have also been told that at leaping matches, as the performer makes his spring, many of the spectators, generally men and boys, move their feet; but here again habit probably comes into play, for it is very doubtful whether women would thus act.

_Reflex actions_--Reflex actions, in the strict sense of the term, are due to the excitement of a peripheral nerve, which transmits its influence to certain nerve-cells, and these in their turn excite certain muscles or glands into action; and all this may take place without any sensation or consciousness on our part, though often thus accompanied.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 17

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Charles Darwin

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