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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   3 April 1872

11 St. Mary Abbot’s Terrace | Kensington

April 3.—72

My dear Sir

I enclose a proof of the passage relating to yourself in my preface.1 I thought afterwards it would be better on your account not to say anything that wd. lead to the impression that my book contains a correct exposition of the Darwinian theory. At the same time I wished to convey so far as cd. be done my literary obligations to you—yet without making you responsible for my statements some of wh. are doubtless erroneous, & for my opinions with some of wh. you will I think disagree, or at all events you will not wish to be identified with them. If however there is anything in this passage which you dislike I will alter it— The statement you were kind enough to write will not be thrown away—2 I dare say I shall often travel over this ground again & I shall take care to put prominently forward the fact that according to your theory the faculties & affections though founded on selfishness pass out of the selfish stage— I quite understood that from your book, & I think I have expressed as much in my work—3 It will be out in ten days or so— Do not trouble to answer this unless you wish the Preface altered. The minor points I allude to are chiefly questions in relation to Sex. Select. producing dark skins &c. though I fully see its power as a modifying agent.4 Sex. select. among the Africans acts in this way—the chiefs selecting women to their taste—but no doubt in the semi-human period the females selected,

I remain | yours very truly | Winwood Reade


The enclosure has not been found, but Reade refers to the preface of his book The martyrdom of man. Reade noted that he disagreed with CD about some statements made in Descent (see Reade 1872, pp. iv–v).
The statement referred to has not been found. Reade may have received it when he visited CD in London on 19 March 1872 (see letter from W. W. Reade, 18 March [1872]).
In Reade 1872, p. 445, Reade stated that moral sense developed according to Darwinian law and argued, ‘The moral sense is founded on sympathy, and sympathy is founded on self-preservation.’ He added that for gregarious animals, including humans, self-preservation was dependent on the preservation of the herd. For CD’s argument for the social basis of the moral sense, see Descent 1: 70–106.
In Reade 1872, p. 423, Reade maintained that racial differences were the result of differences in climate and food, and further, that distinctions among races were unimportant and external. Reade had also presented this view in his letter of 12 September 1871 (Correspondence vol. 19). See also letter from W. W. Reade, 12 March 1872 and n. 6.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 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.

Reade, William Winwood. 1872. The martyrdom of man. London: Trübner & Co.


Sends preface of his book [see 8241]; he acknowledges debt to CD, but does not claim to have given a correct exposition of Darwinism.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 58
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8272,” accessed on 11 April 2021,

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