skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   18 February 1872

11 St. Mary Abbot’s Terrace | Kensington

Feb. 18. 72

My dear Sir

I have received the new edition of the origin; and am very proud to have “from the author” a book which like the Principia & the Wealth of Nations has made an epoch in the science of which it treats.1 I have read your arguments against Mivart.2 In the first place they have proved to me that it is useless for any to enter this controversy unless they are thoroughly acquainted with Zoology— I am therefore & feel myself to be incompetent to judge: but as far as I can judge, it seems to me that you have disposed of his objections. The explanation of the mammary gland removes all mystery from that point at all events; and the sentence with which you close the chapter is a sufficient answer to his theory of jumps.3 A certain sentence of Huxley’s that you had bound yourself too tightly by the Natura non facit saltum beguiled me for a time; but further reading (especially of Lyell’s Principles) & reflection makes me now wonder how evolutionists can believe in any kind of evolution except of the gradual kind.4 But after all the opinions of unscientific men are of little worth— I can only say that I have been much impressed in reading over that chapter, both with your vast resources as regards facts, and your skill in using them.

Hoping then to have the pleasure of seeing you some time after you come to town— | I remain | My dear Sir | Yours very truly | Winwood Reade

I forgot to say in my last letter that the sheets you read contained matter taken from your neighbour Sir J. Lubbock—as well as from Tylor, Comte & yourself— I owe much to Sir J L’s books— I fancy however he is mistaken about savages not committing suicide.5 The New Zealanders do—(Voy. of Novara)6— the aborigines of the West Indies did in the times of Columbus etc. (Irving).7 Believing as they do in the world of shades they do not fear continuation either in punishment or annihilation

CD annotations

1.1 I have … Zoology— 1.5] crossed blue crayon
2.1 Hoping … books—3.3] crossed pencil
3.4 The New … (Irving). 3.5] double scored red crayon; ‘Yes’ added blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Keep’ red crayon


Reade’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Origin 6th ed. (see Correspondence vol. 20, Appendix IV). Reade refers to Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (Newton 1687), and An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations (A. Smith 1776).
CD added a substantially new chapter to Origin 6th ed., ‘Miscellaneous objections to the theory of natural selection’, in which he responded to criticisms made by St George Jackson Mivart in Genesis of species (Mivart 1871a).
In Origin 6th ed., pp. 189–90, CD suggested a possible path of development for the mammary glands. In the last sentence of the chapter (p. 204), he suggested that to believe in sudden transformations, rather than gradual development, was ‘to enter the realms of miracle, and to leave those of science’.
Natura non facit saltum: nature does not make jumps (Latin). Reade refers to Thomas Henry Huxley’s review of Origin ([T. H. Huxley] 1860). See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter from T. H. Huxley, 23 November 1859. Charles Lyell had argued in favour of a theory of gradual change in Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1830–3).
Reade refers to John Lubbock, Edward Burnett Tylor, and Auguste Comte. In Descent 1: 94, CD wrote that he had been informed by Lubbock of the rarity of suicide among barbarians (see Correspondence vol. 18, letter from John Lubbock, 27 February [1870]).
In his account of the voyage of the Austrian frigate Novara, Karl von Scherzer described suicide on the death of a near relative as ‘far from uncommon’ among the Maori (Scherzer 1861–3, 3: 116).
Washington Irving discussed the native inhabitants of lands conquered by Christopher Columbus and his contemporaries (Irving 1828 and Irving 1831). In a chapter describing the suppression of the natives in Hispaniola, Irving noted that many people killed themselves in despair and mothers killed their infants to spare them from a life of oppression (Irving 1828, 3: 377).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

[Huxley, Thomas Henry.] 1860a. Darwin on the origin of species. Westminster Review n.s. 17: 541–70.

Irving, Washington. 1828. A history of the life and voyages of Christopher Columbus. 4 vols. London: John Murray.

Irving, Washington. 1831. Voyages and discoveries of the companions of Columbus. London: John Murray.

Lyell, Charles. 1830–3. Principles of geology, being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface, by reference to causes now in operation. 3 vols. London: John Murray.

Newton, Isaac. 1687. Philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica. London: Royal Society.

Novara expedition. 1861–75. Reise der österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859 unter den Befehlen des Commodore B. von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. 9 vols. in 19. Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei.

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Scherzer, Karl von. 1861–3. Narrative of the circumnavigation of the globe by the Austrian frigate Novara (Commodore B. von Wullerstorf-Urbair), undertaken by order of the imperial government, in the years 1857, 1858, & 1859, under the immediate auspices of his I. and R. Highness, the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian. 3 vols. London: Saunders, Otley, & Co.

Smith, Adam. 1776. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell.


Compares Origin to Newton’s Principia and Adam Smith’s Wealth of nations.

His view of CD’s response to Mivart.

On mammae;

gradualism of evolution;

suicide among savages.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, St Mary Abbot’s Terrace, 11
Source of text
DAR 88: 74–5
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8218,” accessed on 21 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20