From William Winwood Reade 17 January 1869
Cre. Hon Charles Heddle. | Sierra Leone
Jany 17. ’69.
My dear Sir
I have postponed writing to you before in the hope that I might be able to send you some information of value before I started for the interior, which I do in two or three days to search for the source of the Niger. I have unfortunately very little to say— As regards expression I can at present answer but one query.1 The head is shaken laterally in negative & nodded in affirmative among the Gold Coast tribes.2 I find it exceedingly difficult to seize expressions if not prepared for them (as one wd. be in case of a surgical operation). Expression is sudden & momentary— In smiling by the bye I observed two crescent wrinkles at the corners of the mouth, concave side nearest mouth— However I shall try to get something more in that way for you
There is one breed of sheep only on the Gold Coast (where I have spent most of my time since coming out). The rams have horns & manes: the females neither. When castrated not only horns but hair is affected.3 I have frequently asked about the age at wh. the horns sprout but cd. get no answer. Europeans out here do not observe such things, & the blacks have no idea of time. However I have set three persons to watch, & hope to get a reply on my return from the interior, wh. will be in a few months. There is a breed with both sexes horned in Senegambia (with dewlaps) and another breed of enormous size in the Niger Country in wh. the female has rudimentary horns.4
Women in Africa at all events among the more intelligent pagan tribes have no difficulty about getting the husbands they want, although it is considered unwomanly to ask a man to marry them, & that on the Gold Coast I am informed they never do— They are quite capable of falling in love, and even of forming tender passionate and faithful attachments.5 As a rule tribes do not intermarry but I have little doubt that there are many exceptions. Women do not like to marry strangers visiting their country because they do not like to leave their own families; on the other hand when a Foula or Mandingo comes among the Soosovo or Timmanies (pagan coast tribes in this neighbourhood) they try to make him settle & marry amongst them.6 They like to breed from superior men that the offspring may be of use to the town a fact rather opposed to the vulgar ideas about African want of foresight. Girls are not forced to marry the choice of the family in certain tribes: in others (of a lower kind) she is The intermarriage-between-tribes question is an important one. I shall pay attention to it.
I am not likely to see the gorilla up here. At present it is only found a little above Cape St. John and Loango.7 But so little is known about the interior that the question of its habitat, must be left open. Chimpanzees are found in the bush here. If I see one I will note down whether there is more hair on back or front.
My plans on returning from the Kong Mountains8 (if I get there) are not settled. I want much to study the Upper Niger & Haussa Country9 before I leave Africa but cannot tell whether I shall have the opportunity. I am not likely however to return home just yet. Any queries you may send to me shall be faithfully attended to, as far as lies in my power. The worst of it out here is that one gets no assistance; things which every resident ought to know one has to find out for oneself often in a few days—if one can.
Trusting that your health is permitting you to continue labouring in science, and so benefiting all who inquire and observe | I remain | Yours truly | Winwood Reade
Expressions of emotions in Gold Coast tribes.
Differences between males and females in sexual characteristics.
Castrated rams lose horns and manes.
Female members of tribes have no difficulty getting the husbands they want.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6558,” accessed on 1 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6558