skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   5 November 1872

13 Alfred Place | Bedford Square

Nov. 5. 72

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for sending me a copy of the new book & of mentioning my name in it, which I scarcely deserved.1 I have read hastily through it as I must postpone my study of it till I have got out of Africa which I hope will be by Christmas.2 I venture to offer a remark or two, merely observing on the book as a whole that it has quite taken me by surprise. I had no idea that so much could have been done with the subject even by you.

I do not know whether you have noticed that cats often raise the forepaw like a pointer—3 As a singular exception to a rule I knew a young cat that used to like to paddle its feet in water—4 I have known a woman gnash her teeth when excited (sexually).5 Query— are not the expressions produced by intense physical pleasure much like those produced by pain?— Human beings sometimes close their eyes from pleasure: so do cats when caressed.— Puppies (p. 44) are fond of eating dung—6 You ought I think to mention that kissing is unknown throughout West Africa. It is probably the largest non-kissing region on the globe.7 I have seen negroes shrug their shoulders—8 item in a little girl the open mouth as a sign of fright & horror—9 However I do not think any one will deny your theory respecting the unity of expression in the dift. races.

I had the Post sent to you as it properly mentioned my work as resulting from yours.10 I wish it had been more worthy of its parent—& more like. It has not done me any harm in a market sense for I have disposed of my African travels11 on excellent terms to Smith & Elder without showing a specimen. It will go to press in January. I told them there wd. be nothing theological in it, but some matter pro-Darwinian, and received the reply Oh we are all for Darwin here. The Daily News & Telegraph review your book this morning as I presume you will have heard.12 I think I mentioned that Huxley is to do it for the Pall Mall Gazette.13 I shall mention in my travels the general impression made upon my mind that facial expression is the same among the negroes as with us.14 If it had not been so I shd. have noticed it—

I remember by the way a negro paddling & giving a grin at every stroke so that his teeth showed at a considerable distance in a very curious way.

Please do not trouble to answer this. | I remain | Yours very truly | Winwood Reade

CD annotations

1.1 I am … by you. 1.6] crossed blue crayon
2.1 I do … pointer— 2.2] ‘Dogs raise & keep raised their legs—Polly’15 blue crayon
2.2 As … pain?— 2.5] crossed blue crayon
2.5 Human … caressed.— 2.6] enclosed in square brackets blue crayon
2.7 kissing] ‘Kissing’ added blue crayon
2.7 Africa.] ‘Africa’ added blue crayon
2.8 I have … fright 2.9] underl blue crayon
2.9 item] ‘I’ over ‘i’ blue crayon
3.1 I had … yours. 3.2] ‘Saturday R.’16 added blue crayon
3.1 I had … this. 5.1] crossed blue crayon
3.3 I have … specimen. 3.4] scored blue crayon


Reade’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Expression (Appendix V); CD mentioned Reade’s assistance with information about Africans on page 21.
Reade was working on his African sketch-book (Reade 1873).
See Expression, p. 43.
See Expression, p. 46.
CD associated gnashing of the teeth with anger and pain (Expression, pp. 9, 70, 113).
In Expression, p. 44, CD mentioned that dogs rolled in carrion but did not eat it.
See Expression, p. 216, and Reade 1873, 1: 41–3. Reade was cited for his information on kissing in Expression 2d ed., p. 226 n. 27.
In Expression, p. 269, CD reported that two observers in Africa had not observed shrugging in Africans. Reade was cited for his information on shrugging in Expression 2d ed., p. 282 n. 23.
CD discussed expressions of fear and horror in Expression, pp. 289–307.
Reade’s Martyrdom of man (Reade 1872) was reviewed in the Morning Post, 16 October 1872, p. 3. The reviewer noted that Reade was a ‘devoted and confessed follower of Mr. Darwin’, and called his book, ‘the application of Darwin’s philosophy to human history’.
African sketch-book (Reade 1873).
Expression was reviewed in the Daily News, 5 November 1872, p. 2, and the Daily Telegraph, 5 November 1872, p. 5. There are copies in DAR 226.2: 122, 124–5.
The author of the review of Expression in the Pall Mall Gazette, 23 April 1873, pp. 11–12, has not been identified. See also letter from W. W. Reade, 14 October [1872]. Reade refers to Thomas Henry Huxley.
In Reade 1873, Reade did not discuss expression in general, but did mention the similarity of the expression of fear in one particular instance (Reade 1873, 2: 111).
Polly, a rough-haired fox-terrier, had been Henrietta Emma Litchfield’s dog, and became CD’s when Henrietta married (Atkins 1974, pp. 78–9).
Martyrdom of man was reviewed in the Saturday Review, 12 October 1872, pp. 474–5.


Observations on expression: women gnash teeth when sexually excited. W. Africans do not kiss.

Letter details

Letter no.
Reade, W. W.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
London, Alfred Place, 13
Source of text
DAR 176: 65
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8600,” accessed on 25 February 2017,