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|
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.