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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   25 September 1871

11 St. Mary Abbot’s Terrace | Kensington

Sept. 25. .71

My dear Sir

I enclose the giraffe passage.1 May not the use of the neck as a watch-tower be a case of secondary adaptation like the greyhound’s tail?2 I looked into Murphy & find that as you say the ideas I sent you about conscious & non-conscious intelligence are his, or whoever originated them.3 That idea I think I shall hold to, but I am inclined to think that I shall modify other views that I expressed—

I was talking to Capt Burton the other day.4 He thinks as I do that negroes & white men have pretty much the same ideas respecting beauty.

I am looking forward to your new edition.5 By the way as to expression the shooting out of the tongue is curious. I have seen it in negroes as with us to express wonder in a comical way. The open mouth in horror I have seen also in Africa; & in England represented on the stage

Yours very truly | Winwood Reade

Do not trouble to reply to this. But if I can be of any service in looking for a reference as the enclosed pray make use of me. I am an habitué of libraries   It is therefore no trouble


“The immense height of the giraffe gives him a peculiar advantage as he can command an extraordinary range of vision & thereby be warned against the approach of his two great enemies, man & the lion. No animal is more difficult to stalk than the giraffe &c.”

Baker’s Albert Nyanza i. 341. In his Nile Tributaries p 189 et seq. are passages to the same effect.6 The above is the clearest statement. He also mentions their posting sentries &c. & their avoiding high forests.7

CD annotations

1.3 No animal … giraffe &c.” 1.4] scored blue crayon


See letter from W. W. Reade, 20 September 1871 and n. 6. CD’s letter requesting the passage has not been found.
CD compared the sequence of adaptation that led to the elongation of the neck of the giraffe with the breeding process that led to the coordination of the limbs and tail of the greyhound in Variation 2: 221.
Reade refers to Joseph John Murphy and his Habit and intelligence in their connexion with the laws of matter and force (Murphy 1869); see letter from W. W. Reade, 20 September 1871 and n. 4.
Reade probably refers to Richard Francis Burton, who had been recalled from the consulship of Damascus on 16 August 1871 (ODNB).
Reade may refer to Origin 6th ed.
Reade refers to Samuel White Baker, his Albert Nyanza, great basin of the Nile (Baker 1866) and his Nile tributaries of Abyssinia (Baker 1867); see also letter from W. W. Reade, 20 September 1871 and n. 6.
Baker described sentinels in herds of giraffes in Baker 1867, p. 188. He stated that they avoided high forests in Baker 1866, 1: 341.


Baker, Samuel White. 1867. The Nile tributaries of Abyssinia, and the sword hunters of the Hamran arabs. London: Macmillan.

Murphy, Joseph John. 1869. Habit and intelligence in their connexion with the laws of matter and force: a series of scientific essays. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Co.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Sees his ideas on conscious and non-conscious intelligence are already in Murphy [J. J. Murphy, Habit and intelligence (1869)].

Encloses an extract from S. W. Baker’s The Albert N’yanza [1866] on the behaviour of the giraffe [See Origin, 6th ed., p. 178], and some references to Baker’s Nile tributaries [1867].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 69: A49; DAR 176: 51
Physical description
ALS 3pp; encl 1p †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7968,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19