I am reading Wuthering Heights and I am rather confused by this section:

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.

Lockwood is explaining why he went visiting Heathcliff the next day. But It confuses me. When he says "coming up from dinner". I understand like he just ate, in the first floor I suppose, and he is going upstairs after eating to stay by the fire.

But I don't know if he ate between 12 and 1 or at what time. Because he says "I dine". Which is present simple, I was taught you use this time tense to describe things you "you usually do". So reading that sentence I understood it like he eats every day between noon and 1. Yet, next sentence he complains he wanted to eat at 5 and the housekeeper didn't understand him.

So what happened here? Did he eat at noon? Does he usually eat at noon or did he have to eat at that time when he would have preferred to eat at 5pm? Or maybe when he was saying he wanted to eat at 5 he was talking about another meal altogether?

1 Answer 1


He ate between noon and 1 pm, as he must every day, because his housekeeper won't adjust to his preference for a late dinner.

  • The main meal was traditionally eaten at midday (so the cooking could be done in daylight). In the 19th century the fashionable dinner hour was gradually moving later and later until it became an evening meal. Lockwood's housekeeper is evidently an old-fashioned countrywoman who sticks to traditional ways. Oct 28, 2021 at 8:54
  • So @KateBunting the lunch hour used to be at 5pm? Is that what they call dinner? Because that also confuses me. Is it lunch? Because they call it dinner. For me dinner is what you eat at night.
    – Dzyann
    Nov 18, 2021 at 13:19
  • Lunch was only invented because dinner (the main meal of the day) gradually moved from midday to evening, so an extra meal was necessary in between. Lockwood liked his main meal at 5 pm; today most of us have it later than that. Lunch never refers to the evening meal, but some people still call their midday meal 'dinner' even if it's only a snack, and their main evening meal 'tea'. Nov 18, 2021 at 14:07

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