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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   20 December 1870

11 St. Mary Abbot’s Terrace | Kensington

Dec. 20.–70

My dear Sir

It is for me to apologise for my carelessness in not perceiving you had mistaken the spelling, and in the first place for not writing it more clearly—or let us unite in blaming the want of demarcation between T & J. in written character.

Your friend is quite right. Jollof is the word—sometimes spelt Djollof by the French: I believe Wollof is the most correct: but Jollof is the most common & is classical.1 It is in the Lusiad Canto V. x. A Provincia Jalofo que reparte Por diversas nações a negra gente—2

I am looking anxiously for announcements of your date of publication3 and remain | My dear sir | Yours very truly | Winwood Reade


CD’s letter to Reade enquiring about the spelling of ‘Jollofs’ has not been found. See letters from W. W. Reade, [c. 8 or 9 April 1870] and n. 6, 6 November 1870, and 9 November 1870. See also Descent 2: 357, where CD discussed whether the beauty of the Jollofs was brought about by selective breeding.
The Lusíad or Lusíads is an epic poem by the Portuguese writer Luiz Vaz de Camões describing Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. Reade’s quotation may be translated: ‘Leaving in our wake the Jalof province / With its various nations of black people’ (see Camões 2001, a modern translation).
Reade refers to Descent, published in February 1871.


Camões, Luiz Vaz de. 2001. The Lusíads. Translated by Landeg White. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


CD is correct; his notes are on the Jollof, not the Tollof, tribe.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 42
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7399,” accessed on 13 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18