From W. W. Reade 20 May 1872
11 St. Mary Abbot’s Terrace | Kensington
My dear Sir
I do not know how to thank you for your very kind letter; as you will see by the enclosed reviews I have not had much encouragement in print, & though I was prepared for any amount of abuse on the religious business, & any amount of ignorance on my exposition of your theory in ch iv, I did think they wd. say the 1st. chapter was well written.1 The Athenæum contains 14 distinct terms of abuse & three allusions to a book written in my teens—2 But I rather like the Scotsman, & I think he is more a friend of ours than he chooses to say.3
Well as I was going to say your letter has really cheered me up for though I know how kindly is your nature & that you are one of those who appreciate something in everything you read, and therefore that you are a more friendly critic than the general reader wd. be, yet as you condemn nothing in the book wh. I have not already myself condemned, and have selected for your praise those passages in which I put my trust—I am accordingly emboldened to place faith in the book at least to a moderate extent. 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 or so, perhaps less, recast it—cut out & transplant Africa & the polemics, make it a Universal Hist. breaking it up into smaller chapters—putting in dates—maps—& authorities as you suggest.4
Savages breaking out into verse is personal knowledge.5 I can give you a description of a case whenever you wish. I found Blyth (of India) at the Geographical6 reading that part in the Library— We were introduced but my name was not mentioned & he pointed out that passage to me saying “There is a good deal of truth in that you know”— he also read me several other passages with approval—e.g. the preceding passages on 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 seem to like the anti-Jesus part regarding it as premature & such seems to be the general 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 fact noted down to be used. But the extreme brevity required in c. iv. has prevented me as you observe from giving facts.7 However I am not aware that I say anything about moral & intellectual evolution which has not been said by yourself or which may not be fairly deduced from what you say— I dont think I can teach you anything on that point. I am glad the passage on Mind & Matter in p 410 did not strike you as absurd. I was rather nervous about it.8
As to the prospects of the book I am dubious & were it not that I shd. be sorry for Trübner9 to lose money I shd. not much care. It cannot become a classic in its present form but 〈l〉ooking upon 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—10 It will be a book written for women—in a kind of prose poem if I can manage it—& will therefore not contain much ethnological detail I shall supplement it with miscellaneous essays on Africa— I suppose you do not agree with the passage abt. Caffres identity with negroes (273): a naval surgeon who has been on both coasts & also at the Cape told me however that he was never of any other opinion.11 I merely go by portraits 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 it because his father is a clergyman—12
Burton who tells me he had a delightful lunch with you, is just off to Iceland.13
As I said before I do not know how to thank you. I will merely say that I went to my work this morning in a happier frame of mind than I have been for many a day.
I remain | yours very truly | Winwood Reade
His book has received bad reviews; therefore CD’s letter cheers him up.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8341,” accessed on 28 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-8341