does "contemporary" here means "modern" or not?

Mr. H. D. Jencken died in 1881, and his widow was left with two sons. These children showed wonderful mediumship at a very early age, particulars of which will be found in contemporary records.

from http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301051h.html

  • 1
    Why, of all the Conan Doyle books (Sherlock Holmes, The Lost World) do you choose his dull spiritualism text?
    – James K
    Mar 26 '20 at 21:27
  • @ @James K why do you think that he was a credulous and his spiritualistic texts are dull?
    – solesoul
    Mar 26 '20 at 22:03
  • 1. I didn't say he was credulous. 2. They are dull, in comparison to Sherlock Holmes. But whatever floats your boat.
    – James K
    Mar 26 '20 at 22:05
  • @James K maybe you do not believe in spirits or god or even a supreme being or something beyond our mortal world. maybe believing in unbelievable is hard for some psople. i do not judge you, but in my opinion his spiritualistic texts are wonderful and they are not childish stories, also i want to say that his Sherlock Holmes is wonderful too.
    – solesoul
    Mar 26 '20 at 22:13
  • @Sherlock Holmes he was a spiritualist and if you want to love his books, you must know that they wrote by a spiritualist. so, reject him or accept all aspects of him.
    – solesoul
    Mar 26 '20 at 22:17

"contemporary" has the basic meaning of "from the same time period". There are two derived senses: From the same time period as now (ie the time of writing) or from the same time period as then (ie at the time described). We have to use context to determine which sense is meant. This makes "contemporary" a difficult word to understand.

Here we are talking about "records of the children's abilities as mediums". If we think about the meaning, we realise that "from the same time period as now" would make no sense: What would be the point of records made recently as evidence of the children's ability.

On the other hand "from the same time period as then" (ie made while they were still children) makes lots of sense. This must be the sense that the author indended.


Contemporary, as dictionaries show, can have two meanings:

(1) existing or happening now

(2) belonging to the same, or a stated, period in the past

Since the piece is discussing events not long after 1881, I think it is clear that the second of these is intended.

Contemporary (Cambridge Dictionary)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .