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Letter 8341

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

20 May 1872


His book has received bad reviews; therefore CD’s letter cheers him up.


11 St. Mary Abbot’s Terrace | Kensington

May 20.—72

My dear Sir

I do not know how to thank you for your very kind letter; as you willsee by the enclosed reviews I have not had much encouragement inprint, & though I was prepared for any amount of abuse on the religiousbusiness, & any amount of ignorance on my exposition of your theory inch iv, I did think they wd. say the 1st. chapter was well written.f1The Athenæum contains 14 distinct terms of abuse & three allusions toa book written in my teens—f2 But I rather like the Scotsman, &I think he is more a friend of ours than he chooses to say.f3

Well as I was going to say your letter has really cheered me up forthough I know how kindly is your nature & that you are one of those whoappreciate something in everything you read, and therefore that youare a more friendly critic than the general reader wd. be, yet as youcondemn nothing in the book wh. I have not already myself condemned, andhave selected for your praise those passages in which I put my trust—I amaccordingly emboldened to place faith in the book at least to a moderateextent. Its chief defect—& it cannot get over it—is that of form.I began it as a chapter to be inserted in my travels: then it became a Hist.of Africa: then what it is   I shall in the course of 2 years orso, perhaps less, recast it—cut out & transplant Africa & thepolemics, make it a Universal Hist. breaking it up into smallerchapters—putting in dates—maps—& authorities as you suggest.f4

Savages breaking out into verse is personal knowledge.f5 I cangive you a description of a case whenever you wish. I found Blyth(of India) at the Geographicalf6 reading that part in the Library—We were introduced but my name was not mentioned & he pointed out that passageto me saying “There is a good deal of truth in that you know”— healso read me several other passages with approval—e.g. the preceding passageson p 441— But I said who is this man? Does he know anything abt.savages. Whereupon he gave me a short account of myself. He did not seemto like the anti-Jesus part regarding it as premature & such seems to be thegeneral opinion. However I mean to devote my life to war on Christianity.

I know the passage you allude to about the tendrils & had it in factnoted down to be used. But the extreme brevity required in c. iv. hasprevented me as you observe from giving facts.f7 However I am notaware that I say anything about moral & intellectual evolution whichhas not been said by yourself or which may not be fairly deduced fromwhat you say— I dont think I can teach you anything on that point. I amglad the passage on Mind & Matter in p 410 did not strike you as absurd. I wasrather nervous about it.f8

As to the prospects of the book I am dubious & were it not that Ishd. be sorry for Trübnerf9 to lose money I shd. not muchcare. It cannot become a classic in its present form but ⟨l⟩ookingupon it as a rude block I believe I can carve it into a permanent work,adding new facts—& what is of more importance new ideas—

My travels will be out in the autumn—f10 It will be a book writtenfor women—in a kind of prose poem if I can manage it—& willtherefore not contain much ethnological detail   I shall supplement itwith miscellaneous essays on Africa— I suppose you do not agreewith the passage abt. Caffres identity with negroes (273): anaval surgeon who has been on both coasts & also at the Cape told mehowever that he was never of any other opinion.f11 I merely go byportraits of Caffres that I have seen, not having been at the Cape.

Erewhon seems likely to have a run— Author did not put his name to itbecause his father is a clergyman—f12

Burton who tells me he had a delightful lunch with you, is just offto Iceland.f13

As I said before I do not know how to thank you. I will merelysay that I went to my work this morning in a happier frame ofmind than I have been for many a day.

I remain | yours very truly | Winwood Reade

DAR 176: 61



CD’s letter to Reade has not been found, but see the letter fromW. W. Reade, 16 May 1872. Reade refers to his Martyrdom of man(Reade 1872).
The reviewer in the Athenæum, 11 May 1872, pp. 587–8,described Reade 1872 as thoroughly worthless, needlessly profane,indecent, trashy, offensive, pretentious, vulgar, and blasphemous; thereviewer compared it to a three-volume novel published by Reade in1860, Liberty Hall (Reade 1860).
Reade 1872 was reviewed in the Scotsman, 17 May 1872, p. 3; thereviewer accused Reade of being led by an ‘erratic fancy’, whichdid not permit of his being ‘strictly logical, to say nothing aboutaccuracy’, and concluded, ‘The man who constructs a new scheme ofcreation, demolishes old religions, and constructs one that is new,should be moderate in tone, and not like Mr Reade, use the language ofthe betting ring with the freedom of a horse-couper or fishwife.’
Reade published his travels in Africa in 1873 (Africansketch-book, Reade 1873), but the work of recasting Reade 1872 wasnever completed.
In Reade 1872, pp. 440–1, Reade suggested that theconversation of primeval humans was conducted in verse and song,adding that modern-day peasants and savages sang in their talk, likepeople in an opera.
Edward Blyth had spent more than twenty years in India(ODNB). The Royal Geographical Societyhad premises at 1 Savile Row, London (Post Office London directory1872).
Chapter 4 (the last chapter) of Reade 1872, ‘Intellect’, coveredthe period from the origin of the universe to the development oforganised religion. CD had written on the development of tendrils (seeClimbing plants), but it is not known to what specific point he hadalluded.
In Reade 1872, p. 410, Reade wrote, ‘Mind is a property ofmatter. Matter is inhabited by mind. There can be no mind withoutmatter; there can be no matter without mind.’ He went on to argue thatthe difference between the tendency of atoms to cohere and thethoughts and emotions of a human mind was one of degree and complexityonly.
Nicholas Trübner was the publisher of Reade 1872.
Reade’s African sketch-book (Reade 1873) was not published until1873.
See Reade 1872, p. 273; see also Correspondence vol. 19, letterfrom W. W. Reade, 1 February 1871. The naval surgeon has not beenidentified.
Thomas Butler, rector of Langar, was the father of Samuel Butler(1835–1902), the anonymous author of Erewhon ([S. Butler] 1872a). Seealso letter from Samuel Butler, 11 May 1872.
Richard Francis Burton was going to Iceland to look for sulphur(ODNB). See also letter from J. J. Aubertin, 16 January 1872 andn. 4.
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