Wuthering Heights, beginning of chapter 2.

Yesterday afternoon set in misty and cold. I had half a mind to spend it by my study fire, instead of wading through heath and mud to Wuthering Heights. On coming up from dinner, however, (N.B.—I dine between twelve and one o’clock; the housekeeper, a matronly lady, taken as a fixture along with the house, could not, or would not, comprehend my request that I might be served at five)—on mounting the stairs with this lazy intention, and stepping into the room, I saw a servant-girl on her knees surrounded by brushes and coal-scuttles, and raising an infernal dust as she extinguished the flames with heaps of cinders. This spectacle drove me back immediately; I took my hat, and, after a four-miles’ walk, arrived at Heathcliff’s garden-gate just in time to escape the first feathery flakes of a snow shower.

I'm struggling to understand some ideas here, probably because of old-timey language. (or because it's British or I'm dumb)

In the parenthesis, Lockwood says he dines between 12 and 1 - is that supposed to be midnight to 1AM? It would be weird to call a noon to 1pm meal dinner. Does the housekeeper want to serve dinner at 5PM and is confused by his habit to eat dinner at lunchtime? (if there's brunch, how come there's no lupper or linner - if he eats at 1 it sounds like lunch to me, but I guess he could eat an early breakfast and "lunch" at like 11AM?) The times and intentions of the characters in the parenthesis are confusing to me.

Another part that confuses me a little is why did he change his mind about leaving because of the hearth being cleaned? Is he saying it kicked up a lot of dust and made it unpleasant to be inside? Or is it time consuming (I don't know how long it takes) so he won't be able to chill next to the fireplace the whole day - which was his plan for staying in?

1 Answer 1


In Standard American English, the word dinner has come to mean the meal eaten in the evening, or at night. Previously - and still in some dialects of English - dinner had this meaning:

dinner noun

1 a : the principal meal of the day


Whether this largest meal was served around lunch time (midday), or around supper time (evening) was a cultural, or personal preference.

The narrator wishes to have his principal meal at supper time - "at five [PM]." The housekeeper serves the principal meal at lunch time - "between twelve and one o’clock [PM]."

  • Ah, that's interesting and clears up a lot. Thanks!
    – Sadcat
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 20:16
  • 1
    In fact in that era the historical dinner was at noon, and the habit of taking it in the evening was increasing because of jobs and better artificial lighting. This may indicate this place is old-fashioned.
    – Mary
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 15:11

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