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The Reader's Guide to Wuthering Heights

Interpreting the “Wuthering Heights” Timeline

Emily Brontë only names one specific date in Wuthering Heights ― 20th March 1784 as the date of Catherine's (the elder's) death and Cathy's (the younger's) birth. She states that this was a Monday: unfortunately, either Emily did not use a calendar or used an incorrect one as 20 March 1784 was a Saturday. However, if we use the calendar for four years previous, 1780, the days and dates match up until 1800 which would normally be a leap year but was not because it is not divisible by 400 (see Leap Years at Wikipedia). Thus we have to use the calendar for 1802 for 1800; 1803 is also complicated by the leap year rules so we have to use 1809.

In the table below, I show the relevant years in Wuthering Heights and their equivalent calendars.

Explanations: W-Yr (eg. W1784) is the year as mentioned in "Wuthering Heights" (eg. Cathy's birth is in 1784); Lp Yr is whether that year is a leap year or not (marked by a red background); 20 March is the day of the week that 20 March should be on according to the book; C-Yr is the nearest year which actually matches the calendar (eg. C1780); L-Yr is the year used for calculating lunar cycles; 1 Jan and 31 Dec are the days of the week that those days are on; M-Yr is a modern year whose calendar matches the C-Year as it can be difficult to find a calendar for the 18th century (eg. M1972).

W-Yr Lp Yr 20 March C-Yr L-Yr 1 Jan 31 Dec M-Yr
1771   Fri 1767 1767 Thu Thu 1959
1772 Yes Sun 1768 1768 Fri Sat 1960
1773   Mon 1769 1769 Sun Sun 1961
1774   Tue 1770 1770 Mon Mon 1962
1775   Wed 1771 1771 Tue Tue 1963
1776 Yes Fri 1772 1772 Wed Thu 1964
1777   Sat 1773 1773 Fri Fri 1965
1778   Sun 1774 1774 Sat Sat 1966
1779   Mon 1775 1775 Sun Sun 1967
1780 Yes Wed 1776 1776 Mon Tue 1968
1781   Thu 1777 1777 Wed Wed 1969
1782   Fri 1778 1778 Thu Thu 1970
1783   Sat 1779 1779 Fri Fri 1971
1784 Yes Mon 1780 1780 Sat Sun 1972
1785   Tue 1781 1781 Mon Mon 1973
1786   Wed 1782 1782 Tue Tue 1974
1787   Thu 1783 1783 Wed Wed 1975
1788 Yes Sat 1784 1784 Thu Fri 1976
1789   Sun 1785 1785 Sat Sat 1977
1790   Mon 1786 1786 Sun Sun 1978
1791   Tue 1787 1787 Mon Mon 1979
1792 Yes Thu 1788 1788 Tue Wed 1980
1793   Fri 1789 1789 Thu Thu 1981
1794   Sat 1790 1790 Fri Fri 1982
1795   Sun 1791 1791 Sat Sat 1983
1796 Yes Tue 1792 1792 Sun Mon 1984
1797   Wed 1793 1793 Tue Tue 1985
1798   Thu 1794 1794 Wed Wed 1986
1799   Fri 1795 1795 Thu Thu 1987
1800 No Sat 1802 1796 Fri Fri 1993
1801   Sun 1803 1797 Sat Sat 1994
1802   Mon 1809 1798 Sun Sun 1995

It is important to know the days of the week as Emily often notes events as being on a specific day, for instance, Heathcliff clashes with Edgar on a Monday. With a consistent calendar, it is possible to narrow days down even further and create a feasible timeline (see the Almanack).

It is also important to be aware of the moon's phases as these are sometimes mentioned by Emily ― eg. when Heathcliff and Isabella elope, there is no moon. Up until W1799, the C-Years can be used both for calendar and lunar dates. For the years from 1800 onwards, it is necessary to combine the calendars for 1802, 1803 and 1809 with the moon cycles for 1796 to 1798.

To see the calendars of all the years used in the story, see the calendar page.