The Big List of Time Travel Adventures

 1836 to 1849

a “mégathérion” from Boitard’s 1836 article

   “Paris avant les hommes”
English title: “Paris before Man” (translated from French)
by Pierre Boitard
First publication: Musée des Familles—Lectures du Soir, Jun 1836 (Part 1) and Nov 1837 (Part 2)

Everyone from Jules Verne to John Connor seems to know of Pierre Boitard’s edition of Paris avant les hommes published in 1861, two years after Boitard’s death. The 500-page tome tells the tale of a limping devil named Asmodeus who takes Boitard himself on a journey through Earth’s natural history.
What’s less well known is that 25 years earlier, Boitard’s initial version—yes, including the time-traveling Asmodeus—appeared as a 44-page, two-part article in the family magazine Musée des Familles—Lecture pour Tous. I stumbled upon this in Jean Le Loeuff’s November 2012 blog, Le Dinoblog.

 To this question, the devil burst into laughter, waking them. The female ran about on all fours, carrying under her belly the little ones, clinging with all their might; but the male uttered a fierce gutteral roar, fixed his eyes upon me, stood upright on his hind legs, and raising high his flint ax, rushed toward me with a furious leap, swinging the deadly weapon at my head.
At that moment, I uttered a cry of terror because I had no choice but to recognize exactly what kind of monster he was . . . He was a man.
 

—from the end of Part 1


Pierre Boitard, Master Traveller

This 1836 article is the earliest that I’ve spotted of a man traveling to the past. So cheers to Pierre and his well deserved Master Traveler Citation.




No Time Travel.
Move along.
“The Fountain of Yonder” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Knickerbocker, Jan 1837 [fountain of youth ]
aka “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”





   “An Anachronism;
or, Missing One’s Coach”

by Anonymous Dublin University Author
First publication: The Dublin University Magazine, Jun 1838

A man, waiting for a coach in Newcastle, finds himself taken through time and face to face with Saint Bede, whereupon a philosophical conversation about time and the future ensues.

 It must suffice then to say that, at the point where I come again into perfect possession of my consciousness, the venerable monk and I were conferring, in an easy manner, upon various points connected with his age, or with mine, and both of us having a clear understanding, and perfect recollection of the fact, that, at this same moment, he was actually living in the eighth century, and I as truly in the nineteenth; nor did this trifing difference of a thousand years or more—this break, as geologists would call it—this fault in the strata of time—perplex either of us a whit; any more than two friends are molested by the circumstance of their happening to encounter each other just as they arrive from opposite hemispheres. 


Anonymous Dublin University Author, Master Traveller

Here’s one time (of many) when I wish I did have a time machine so that I could go back to 1838 Dublin, track down the anonymous author of this story, and present him or her with a well-deserved Master Traveller Citation, which recognizes creative innovation in time travel. In his 1951 anthology, Far Boundaries, August Derleth identified this story as a forerunner of modern time travel fiction, and indeed, the hero of the story may be the first backward time-traveling human (given that Boitard’s 1836 version of Paris avant les hommes might not have included the time traveler). Even if Boitard was first, this story deserves a citation for being the first to travel back to visit an actual historical person.

The mechanism of travel in “Anachronism” is via a dream-like state, and at first there is the question of whether the traveler can interact with those in the past. But for me, the discussion he has with Saint Bede puts that question to bed and also guarantees the anonymous author a Master Traveler Citation.




No Time Travel.
Move along.
“A Succession of Sundays” by Edgar Allan Poe, The Saturday Evening Post, 27 Nov 1841 [calendar tomfoolery ]
aka ‘Three Sundays a Week’

















   “A Christmas Carol”
by Charles Dickens
First publication: 1843

Some time ago in my pursuit of time travel, I discovered that I often ran across stories that might well have had time travel based on reviews that I’d read or the title of the story or even that most dreadful of deceits: an author deceiving the poor reader! But in the end, many such stories contained no real time travel. Of necessity, The Big List of Time Travel Adventures rejected such stories for membership, and that was no problem.

However another problem did occur: In my dotage, I kept coming back to these Pretenders, forgetting that they had already been cast aside. In order to avoid wasting valuable List-Creation Time, I decided to catalog the rejects in a separate list of their own, and that separate list appears after the end of the real time travel list.

And yet, even after many discussions of these points with my Grandpa, both of us kept struggling with A Christmas Carol. It’s not hard to see why. Clearly there was a trip to the past:

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it!  

Now if that’s not time travel, what is? Ah . . . “Not so fast!” says Ghost!

“These are but shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”  

Even Ghost Himself admits there’s no interaction with the past. Observation is permitted, but not interaction. They might as well be watching a movie! In general, if you can’t interact with the past and the past can’t see you, then that’s not time travel.

Fair enough, but what about Future Ghost? Isn’t He bringing information from the future to Scrooge? Transfer of information from the future to the past may be boring compared to people-jumping, but it is time travel, so A Christmas Carol must be granted membership in the list after all, don’t you think?

Ah, not so fast again! At one point, Scrooge asks a pertinent question:

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”  

The answer is critical to whether time travel occurs. The difference between things that May Be and things that Will Be is like the difference between Damon Knight and Doris Day: Both are quite creative, but (as far as I know) there’s only one you go to for time travel.

The scarey Future ghost never answers the question, and moreover, Scrooge appears intent on not having the future he sees come true. So, I want to say that Scrooge saw only a prediction or a prophecy or a vision of a possible future—none of which are time travel.

For many years, I stuck by my guns: Viewing the past is not time travel. Visions of a possible future are not time travel. Scrooge was not a time traveler. And yet, Dickens’ planted a seed wherein a major character seemed to go backward or forward in time and even more(!) return to the present, and that seed grew into the industry we now call time travel. For this reason and more, Scrooge and Marley and Tiny Tim, too, have earned their place on The Big List of Time Travel Adventures. So in my old age, perhaps wondering when my ghosts shall visit, I have new guidelines:

  • Reconstructing the past from data that is readily available in the present is not time travel. But if a noninteractive vision of the past is presented with even the barest feeling of time travel, then such a story is awarded a spot on the Big List.
  • Similarly, it’s possible to construct a prediction of the future from data in the present. If we lived in the pre-quantum world of classical physics, we could even strengthen the word prediction, claiming that we have computed what Leibnitz called “the possibility to calculate everything . . .” And yet, once again, I find that noninteractively viewing the future (or a possible future timeline) is sufficiently chrono-atypical that in the absense of any explicit calculating machinery, such stories are now liberally allowed on the Big List.

 If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die. 


Charles Dickens, Master Traveller

Given the evolution of my understanding of time travel described above, Dickens has sentenced me to many happy hours of additional work as the keeper of the Big List, for which I offer my thanks and now officially cite him as an undisputed Master Traveller.



An 1867 issue of Godey’s

   “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains”
by Edgar Allan Poe
First publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book, Apr 1844

A sick man tells of a walk he took in November of 1845 only to find himself in a pitched battle in 1780 Calcutta, but Dr. Templeton, who listens to the story, already knows how it turns out.

 Busied in this, I walked on for several hours, during which the mist deepened around me to so great an extent that at length I was reduced to an absolute groping of the way. And now an indescribable uneasiness possessed me— 


Edgar Allan Poe, Master Traveller

Poe’s creativity and innovation was stronger in his horror stories than his ventures into time travel, but even so, he deserves his Master Traveller Citation for the first instance of a time traveler visiting—and affecting!—a historical event. Yet the effect on the event is not a change: Indeed, he caused it to happen in exactly the way that history recorded, resulting in the first of a long line of stories time-travel stories in a single-stream universe in which a traveler may go to the past and do various actions, but only if he did in fact do them all along.







   Le monde tel qu’il sera
English title: The World as It Shall Be (translated from French)
by Émile Souvestre
First publication: 1846

Mssr. John Progrès, a diminutive god, whisks a young romantic couple to a satirical anti-utopia in the year 3000.

 He was comfortably seated on a machine of English Make, the smoke of which enveloped him in clouds of fantastic shape, and on the instrument panel there was a daguerreotype from the workshops of M. le Chevalier. Maurice, a little alarmed at first at this sudden apparition, was reassured by his mild appearance. He looked boldly at the little visitor and asked him who he was. 


Émile Souvestre, Master Traveller

As you can see by O. Penguilly’s drawing, Émile Souvestre came within half a screwdriver’s turn of inventing the time machine, but the steam-powered machine that Progrès rides seems to be merely a means of transport through space. When it comes to taking the couple through time, that’s accomplished via sleep. So no credit for devising the first time machine, but I’ll give him credit for inventing Steampunkers of the Year 3000, and that’ll be the basis of his Master Traveller Citation.





   “Mellonta Tauta”
aka On Board Balloon “Skylark”
by Edgar Allan Poe
First publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book, Feb 1849

So just how did those letters from the year 2848 make their way back to Poe if not for time travel?

 To the Editors of the Ladys Book:—

I have the honor of sending you, for your magazine, an article which I hope you will be able to comprehend rather more distinctly than I do myself. It is a translation, by my friend, Martin Van Buren Mavis, (sometimes called the “Toughkeepsie Seer,”) of an odd-looking MS. which I found, about a year ago, tightly corked up in a jug floating in the Mare Tenebrarum—a sea well described by the Nubian geographer, but seldom visited now-a-days, except for the transcendentalists and divers for crotchets.
 


 


8 items are in the time-travel list for these search settings.
Thanks for visiting my time-travel page, and thanks to the many sources that provided stories and more (see the Links and Credits in the menu at the top). —Michael (
main@colorado.edu)