From W. W. Reade 3 September 1870
Conservative Club | St. James’ Street
Seper. 3. ’70
My dear Sir
I have been back a fortnight & shd. have written to you before, but have been much out of sorts. I was disappointed of a passage up the Niger.1 The trading steamers would take no passengers suddenly smitten with the brilliant idea of the Phenicians & medieval Portugese &c—& are trying to keep their trade in the dark.2 Not good policy nowadays.
I have seen several albinoes in Africa but have never detected a blush. In fact one avoids these disagreeable objects.
I have often thought I have observed a kind of brown flush in the negro cheek— A German missionary declared to me he had seen a dark mahogany coloured blush— Bates3 a better observer than the missionary or myself said the same to me the other day.
I am also almost positive that on that part of the cheek where colour is most abundant with us who have colour there is a glowing brown tint in most negroes especially in children corresponding to it. The neck especially the nape appears more pigmentary than the face. I shd. like this to be investigated by an experienced observer. I mistrust my own eye.
I cd. have answered your inquiry about the chimpanzee a few months earlier.4 My friend Heddle at Sa. Leone had a tame one—5 I have not see one since. I think chimpanzees often come to Liverpool, live a short time but die before they can be taken to London. Liverpool is the African port & if you have a correspondent there he wd. be the best person to look out & observe for you. There is no one on that wretched coast who can be relied on in such matters— Trade & red tape & a low form of Christianity—such are the elements of West African Society.6
I hope that you will continue to honour me with further inquiries. I have amassed much new material any of which is at your disposal for any fact gathered by me & used by you will acquire a special value on that account. So my offer is perfectly selfish.
Will you allow me to offer one objection to your belief (if I understand it right) that there is no natural standard of beauty?7 How is it that the Africans men & women always admire long hair? I can positively assert that they do so. Both sexes wear false hair: & they say on the Gold Coast the Europeans would be good looking if they had better teeth; but their hair is beautifully long.8 I also know an instance of a young Mandingo9 having fallen in love with a European lady in Sa Leone.
Yours very truly | Winwood Reade
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.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7315,” accessed on 28 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7315