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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. W. Reade   18 December [1874]1

10 Beaumont Street | Portland Place | W.

Dec. 18.

My dear Sir

I am located as above, and shall most likely be here some considerable time; I hope that if you pay your annual visit to London you will favour me with a visit.2

I met Colenso last night at dinner and we had a chat about the Caffres & negroes. He declares positively that the Zulus & other tribes of S. Africa usually called Caffres are simply negroes—perfect specimens of whom he has seen from Sierra Leone & other parts of the West Coast. This is the first testimony from a trustworthy resident of those parts which I have ever been able to obtain though as you may remember I always held that theory—basing it on photographs, verbal descriptions in books &c—3

I am likely to do a good deal of reading next year in books of travel & so forth: if there is any point you want evidence upon, besides those touched upon in the Descent4 please to let me know— But do not otherwise trouble to answer this. I hope that this weather is not injurious to you, and that you are able to work at those subjects which no one but yourself is capable of treating— I was surprised to find in Livingstone’s Journals a reference to your Researches on Plants: in his first great work there are many ‘Facts for Darwin’ as I dare say you have observed.5

Believe me | yours very truly | Winwood Reade

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘For Book’ pencil


The year is established by the reference to H. Waller ed. 1874 (see n. 5, below). Reade died on 24 April 1875.
CD usually spent a week in London in December. In 1874, he had stayed there from 3 to 12 December (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
See also Correspondence vol. 20, letter from W. W. Reade, 13 February 1872. In the nineteenth century, the term Caffre or Kafir was usually used to refer to some groups of the Xhosa people of south-eastern Africa; for nineteenth-century uses of the term Caffre, see Stocking 1987, Dubow 1995, and S. J. Gould 1997. John William Colenso, bishop of Natal, visited England in 1874 to protest against harsh treatment of native peoples in Natal (Cox 1888, 2: 388–401). For Reade’s understanding of the term negro, and their relationship with the people known as Caffres, see W. W. Reade 1872, pp. 272–3.
CD cited Reade frequently for information on African peoples and domestic animals in Descent.
David Livingstone referred to CD’s work on climbing plants in The last journals of David Livingstone (H. Waller ed. 1874, p. 19). CD had described Livingstone’s first work, Missionary travels and research in South Africa (Livingstone 1857) as ‘the best Travels I ever read’ (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, Reading notebooks). See also Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 April [1858] and n. 8, Correspondence vol. 8, letter to Daniel Oliver, 24 [September 1860] and n. 3, and Correspondence vol. 16, letter to G. H. Lewes, 7 August [1868] and n. 12. Reade also alludes to the English translation of Fritz Müller’s Für Darwin (F. Müller 1864), Facts and arguments for Darwin (Dallas trans. 1869).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cox, George W. 1888. The life of John William Colenso, D.D., Bishop of Natal. 2 vols. London: W. Ridgway.

Dubow, Saul. 1995. Scientific racism in modern South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gould, Stephen Jay. 1997. The mismeasure of man. Revised and expanded edition. London: Penguin Books.

Livingstone, David. 1857. Missionary travels and researches in South Africa; including a sketch of sixteen years’ residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast; thence across the Continent, down the river Zambesi, to the Eastern Ocean. London: John Murray.

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

Stocking, George W., Jr. 1987. Victorian anthropology. New York: The Free Press. London: Collier Macmillan.


Bishop J. W. Colenso supports his old contention that the Kaffirs (including Zulus of South Africa) are Negroes.

[Horace Waller’s] The last journals of David Livingstone [in central Africa (1874)] cites CD’s plant research and has many facts "for Darwin".

Letter details

Letter no.
William Winwood Reade
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Beaumont St, 10
Source of text
DAR 176: 72
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9764,” accessed on 19 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22