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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Winwood Reade   19 May 1868

Conservative Club— | St. James’ Street

May 19 ’68

Dear Sir

I start in ten days or so for the Gold Coast, with the intention of going to Coomassie the capital of Ashanti, and if permitted by the King (which is I fear not very likely) to the country beyond— It is probable that after my return to the coast I may take up my residence for a time at Whydah or Accra—1

I intend to collect plants for the Kew collection, Dr. Hooker2 having provided me with the necessary materials, and zoological specimens of every kind— But it is my desire to collect philosophically: I therefore (having first spoken to Mr. Bates3 about it) venture to write to you to ask whether you would desire me to make any special inquiries either as to the habits of animals or of the natives— Any instructions which you may honour me with shall be faithfully carried out as far as will lie in my powers, and if I remain on the coast a considerable time as is not impossible, the results shall be communicated to you from time to time— If you are too occupied to write, & would prefer to give me hints verbally I shall be happy to call upon you any day you may be pleased to appoint during the next ten days or so—

My merely superficial acquaintance with zoology will I am afraid prevent me from making any investigations of a very minute or elaborate kind, & of botany I have no knowledge— I am best capable perhaps & certainly chiefly desirous of making inquiries relative to the human race, & hope to be able to make measurements on a large scale— But I beg to repeat that I would give my best attention to anything which could aid in elucidating or affording evidence for those grand problems which you are engaged in expounding—

I remain | Yours obediently | W. Winwood Reade

CD annotations4

End of letter: ‘Hairiness of Gorilla— Chimpanzee | Voice of male relative to ♀’ pencil


Coomassie (Kumasi) is a city in the Ashanti region of what is now Ghana; the region was then ruled by the Ashanti federation (Columbia gazetteer of the world). The king, Kofi Karikari, took office in 1867, and was reported to be more warlike than his predecessor (EB, s.v. Ashanti). Whydah (Ouidah) is a port in what is now Benin. Accra is a port in Ghana.
CD’s annotations are notes for his reply to Reade of 21 May [1868].


Columbia gazetteer of the world: The Columbia gazetteer of the world. Edited by Saul B. Cohen. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998.

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.


Going to the Gold Coast. Will collect plants for Kew.

Offers his services. Particularly interested in making inquiries for CD about the human race.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Conservative Club, London, St James’ St
Source of text
DAR 176: 33
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6186,” accessed on 29 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16