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Letter 7315

Reade, W. W. to Darwin, C. R.

3 Sept 1870


Could not go up the Niger, as trading steamers are trying to keep their trade in the dark.

Has seen several albinos, but no blushing. Thinks blacks do blush.


Conservative Club | St. James’ Street

Seper. 3. ’70

My dear Sir

I have been back a fortnight & shd. have written to you before, but havebeen much out of sorts. I was disappointed of a passage up the Niger.f1 Thetrading steamers would take no passengers suddenly smitten with the brilliantidea of the Phenicians & medieval Portugese &c—& are trying to keep theirtrade in the dark.f2 Not good policy nowadays.

I have seen several albinoes in Africa but have never detecteda blush. In fact one avoids these disagreeable objects.

I have often thought I have observed a kind of brown flush in the negrocheek— A German missionary declared to me he had seen a dark mahoganycoloured blush— Batesf3 a better observer than the missionary ormyself said the same to me the other day.

I am also almost positive that on that part of the cheek where colouris most abundant with us who have colour there is a glowing brown tintin most negroes especially in children corresponding to it. The neckespecially the nape appears more pigmentary than the face. I shd.like this to be investigated by an experienced observer. I mistrust my owneye.

I cd. have answered your inquiry about the chimpanzee a few monthsearlier.f4 My friend Heddle at Sa. Leone had a tame one—f5 Ihave not see one since. I think chimpanzees often come to Liverpool,live a short time but die before they can be taken toLondon. Liverpool is the African port & if you have a correspondentthere he wd. be the best person to look out & observe for you. Thereis no one on that wretched coast who can be relied on in suchmatters— Trade & red tape & a low form of Christianity—such arethe elements of West African Society.f6

I hope that you will continue to honour me with further inquiries. I haveamassed much new material any of which is at your disposal for any factgathered by me & used by you will acquire a special value on thataccount. So my offer is perfectly selfish.

Will you allow me to offer one objection to your belief (if I understandit right) that there is no natural standard of beauty?f7 How is itthat the Africans men & women always admire long hair? I can positivelyassert that they do so. Both sexes wear false hair: & they say on the GoldCoast the Europeans would be good looking if they had better teeth;but their hair is beautifully long.f8 I also know an instance of a youngMandingof9 having fallen in love with a European lady in Sa Leone.

Yours very truly | Winwood Reade

DAR 176: 39



Reade had just returned from an expedition to Africa. He had hopedto discover the source of the Niger river (see letter fromW. W. Reade, 24 April 1870, and Driver 2001, pp. 103–6).
Phoenicia was an ancient region, situated along theMediterranean in what is now Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Palestine; itwas known for its thriving maritime trade, as was Portugal (EB(1970)).
Henry Walter Bates.
See letter to W. W. Reade, 30 June [1870] and n. 8.
Reade stayed with Charles Heddle in Sierra Leone (seeCorrespondence vol. 17, letter from W. W. Reade, 28 June [1869]).
For more on Reade’s views of African society, see Reade 1873.
CD had alluded to different standards of beauty in his letter toW. W. Reade, 21 May [1868] (Correspondence vol. 16).
CD cited Reade’s views on the similarity between European andAfrican standards of beauty in Descent 2: 350.
The Mandingo (also known as Mandinka or Malinke) are an ethnic group in westAfrica.
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