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Darwin Correspondence Project

To M. H. Truelove   1 July 1878

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

July 1. 1878



From living in the country I never heard your Father’s name, until his trial, & know absolutely nothing about him. It is, therefore impossible for me to sign the memorial which states that “he is a person of honourable character & blameless life, who in good faith &c”; not that I have any reason whatever to doubt these several statements.

I have not seen the Moral Phys. by R. D. Owen, but have heard the nature of its content; & though I am strongly opposed to all such views & plans, yet the conviction of your Father seemed to me very harsh, as the publication of works of this nature can hardly be considered as obscene in the ordinary sense of the word.—1

I am sorry for your Father, but cannot aid him, & remain | Sir | Your obedient servt. | Ch. Darwin


Edward Truelove was in Coldbath Fields prison serving a four-month sentence for publishing an edition of Robert Dale Owen’s Moral physiology, a book about birth control first published by Owen in the US in 1830 (R. D. Owen 1877 and R. D. Owen 1830). Truelove had been prosecuted at the instigation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice and tried under the Obscene Publications Act (also known as Lord Campbell’s Act); the jury, however, could not agree on a verdict, and Truelove was convicted only after a second hearing. See Truelove 1878, pp. 98–9, and Amphlett Micklewright 1961, p. 41.


Amphlett Micklewright, F. H. 1961. The rise and decline of English neo-Malthusianism. Population Studies 15: 32–51.

Owen, Robert Dale. 1830. Moral physiology; or, a brief and plain treatise on the population question. New York: Wright and Owen.

Owen, Robert Dale. 1877. Moral physiology; or, a brief and plain treatise on the population question. New edition. London: E. Truelove.


Regrets he cannot sign a memorial for correspondent’s father [Edward Truelove], which states an opinion on a life that is totally unknown to him. Feels that Edward Truelove’s sentence was very harsh [ET was imprisoned and fined for selling "obscene" publications advocating artificial control of conception] even though CD is strongly opposed to all the views expressed.

Comments on R. D. Owen’s Moral physiology [1831].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Maurice Hawley Truelove
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.539)
Physical description
3pp & AdraftS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11580,” accessed on 15 April 2021,