(Source) And now Nineteen persons having been hang'd, and one prest to death, and Eight more condemned, in all Twenty and Eight, of which above a third part were Members of some of the Churches of N. England, and more than half of them of a good Conversation in general, and not one clear'd; about Fifty having confest themselves to be Witches, of which not one Executed; above an Hundred and Fifty in Prison, and Two Hundred more accused; the Special Commision of Oyer and Terminer comes to a period. —Robert Calef[1]

What does Conversation mean here? Also, why's it capitalised?

Further to simply stating the definition, would you please explain how you inferred or determined the correct definition, so that I can learn how to do this myself? Is it definition 1 here?

  • 6. Obs. a. behavior or manner of living. [1300–50; Middle English < Latin conversātiō society, intercourse =conversā(rī) to associate with (see converse1) + -tiō -tion] (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, quoted in thefreedictionary.com/conversation)
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 10:27

1 Answer 1


Conversation has the archaic sense of 'a way of life'. What the writer is saying is that 28 people have been hanged for witchcraft, 'even though' a third part were members of the Church Of England, and more than half of them were supposedly good people (ie lived a good way of life).

The meaning can be inferred from the context of the description of some of the people as members of a church.

As for the capitalisation, as you can see from the rest of the text, people were much freer with capitalising nouns at that time, much like modern German, where all nouns are capitalised.

(archaic) Behaviour, the way one conducts oneself; a person's way of life. [from 14th c.]

Source: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conversation

  • Source for the sense of 'a way of life?'
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 10:27
  • You've given it in your comment above. Way of life/manner of living, potayto potahto. Also: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conversation Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 10:31
  • We are required to provide the source, or it could be treated as a comment/ opinion.
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 10:32
  • Just to support ElindilTheTall on this point, I note that Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary gives as its first definition of conversation "obs: CONDUCT, BEHAVIOR." I believe we're all on the same wavelength here, and Elendil's answer surely disposes of the OP's question quite thoroughly. +1.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 1:51

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