The Big List of Time Travel Adventures

 1880 to 1894



   “The Clock That Went Backward”
by Edward Page Mitchell
First publication: The New York Sun, 18 Sep 1881

A young man and his cousin inherit a clock that takes them back to the siege of Leyden at the start of October 1574, where they affect that time as much as it has affected them. This is travel in a machine (or at least an artifact), but they have no control over the destination.

 The hands were whirling around the dial from right to left with inconceivable rapidity. In this whirl we ourselves seemed to be borne along. Eternities seemed to contract into minutes while lifetimes were thrown off at every tick. 


Edward Page Mitchell, Master Traveller

In Lost Giants of American Science Fiction, sf historian Sam Moskowitz cites Mitchell as the first to spearhead five important sf themes in his anonymously published, syndicated short stories for the newspapers. One of those themes was the idea of a mechanism (rather than a dream or trance) to take a person back in time, as presented in “The Clock That Went Backward”—the first time machine! Another time travel innovation of Mitchell was the time traveling ghost from the future in “An Uncommon Sort of Spectre,” who unlike Dickens’s ghosts could interact with the time he traveled to.




No Time Travel.
Move along.
“Hands Off” by Edward Everett Hale (Anonymously), Harper’s, Mar 1881 [alternate history ]

“Pausodyne” by Grant Allen, Belgravia Christmas Annual, Dec 1881 [long sleep ]



   The Diothas, or A Far Look Ahead
aka Looking Forward, or the Diothas
by John Macnie (as by Ismar Thiusen)
First publication: 1883

A jilted Ismar Thiusen visits his friend Utis Estai who, through mesmerism, takes the two of them to a 96th century puritanical utopian society where he is viewed by the locals as a mentally ill man who believes he is from the 19th century.

 According to the view of things above adverted to, the different stages in the history of our race are not successive only, but are also co-existent and co-extensive with each other. Just as in a block of marble, there is contained, not one only, but every possible statue, though, of the whole number, only one at a time can be made evident to our senses; so, in a given region of space, any number of worlds can co-exist, each with its own population conscious of only that world, or set of phenomena, to which their ego is attuned. 



No Time Travel.
Move along.
“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce, San Francisco Newsletter, 25 Dec 1886 [no definite time travel ]
aka “Can Such Things Be?”





   El Anacronópete
English title: The Time Ship (translated from Spanish)
by Enrique Gaspar
First publication: 1887

Mad scientist Don Sindulfo and his best friend Benjamin take off in Sindulfo’s time machine along with Sindulfo’s niece, her maid, a troop of Spanish soldiers, and a bordelloful of French strumpets for madcap adventures at the 1860 Battle of Téouan, Queen Isabella’s Spain, nondescript locales in the eleventh and seventh centuries, third-century China, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, and a biblical time shortly after the flood. Don’t worry overly much about the twist at the end: it was still a fine romp.

A professional translation of the novel into English by Yolanda Molina-Gavilan and Andrea L. Bell was published in 2012, and after my year of Spanish at the University of Colorado, I completed my own three-year translation project in 2014.

 “One step at a time,” argued a sensible voice. “If the Anacronópete aims to undo history, it seems to me that we must be congratulated as it allows us to amend our failures.”
   “Quite right,” called a married man jammed into the front of the bus, thinking of his tiresome wife. “As soon as the ticket office opens to the public, Im booking passage to the eve of my wedding.”
 


Enrique Gaspar, Master Traveller

Enrique Gaspar was a contemporary of H.G. Wells, though there’s no indication that Wells knew of his fellow European’s Spanish novel, El Anacronópete, the first tale of a scientist inventing a time machine—to be more specific, a flying time ship several stories high.




No Time Travel.
Move along.
“The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant, Gil Blas, 26 Oct 1887 [supernatural story ]

The story and its importance were noted in the first issue of Tomorrow.

   “The Chronic Argonauts”
by H.G. Wells
First publication: The Science School Journal, 1888

Wells abandoned this early version of the story after three installments. He may not have liked it, but it’s a fun historical read—and the first mention that I’ve seen of time as the fourth dimension.

 Those who were there say that they saw Dr. Nebogipfel, standing in the toneless electric glare, on a peculiar erection of brass and ebony and ivory; and that he seemed to be smiling at them, half pityingly and half scornfully, as it is said martyrs are wont to smile. 




   Looking Backward from 2000 to 1887
by Edward Bellamy
First publication: 1888

As with The Diothas from earlier in the same decade, our hero tells the story of a man (Julian West) who undergoes hypnotically induced time travel, this time to the year 2000 and a socialist utopian society.

 It would have been reason enough, had there been no other, for abolishing money, that its possession was no indication of rightful title to it. In the hands of the man who had stolen it or murdered for it, it was as good as in those which had earned it by industry. People nowadays interchange gifts and favors out of friendship, but buying and selling is considered absolutely inconsistent with the mutual benevolence and disinterestedness which should prevail between citizens and the sense of community of interest which supports our social system. According to our ideas, buying and selling is essentially anti-social in all its tendencies. It is an education in self-seeking at the expense of others, and no society whose citizens are trained in such a school can possibly rise above a very low grade of civilization. 



No Time Travel.
Move along.
“Mysterious Disappearances” by Ambrose Bierce, The San Francisco Examiner, 14 Oct 1888 [people-trapping dimensions ]
aka ‘Whither?’



   A Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
by Mark Twain
First publication: 1889

A clonk on the head transports Hank Morgan from the 19th century back to the time of Camelot.

 You know about transmigration of souls; do you know about transportation of epochs—and bodies? 


Mark Twain, Master Traveller

I first read the original in 7th grade: for me, a vast improvement on Huck Finn. I do see some roots of Robert A. Heinlein (a fellow Master Traveller) in the Connecticut Yankee’s political, economic and social machinations.







   Sylvie and Bruno
by Lewis Carroll
First publication: 13 Dec 1889

Alice told us, “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” But Lewis Carroll’s lesser known characters have no such injunction against time traveling. Near the end of the first volume of Sylvie and Bruno, the Professor—who is a sometimes tutor for the royal children Sylvie and Bruno—produces his Outlandish watch that controls time and permits backward time travel up to a full month.

Alas, the Outlandish watch doesn’t play much of a role in the story. Lewis Carrol tries to use it to avert a bicycle accident, and indeed the accident is annihilated, but only temporarily until the time when the watch was first set backward reoccurs. At that point, all is once again as it was with the bicyclist in a lump on the ground.

 “It goes, of course, at the usual rate. Only the time has to go with it. Hence, if I move the hands, I change the time. To move them forwards, in advance of the true time, is impossible: but I can move them as much as a month backwards—that is the limit. And then you have the events all over again—with any alterations experience may suggest.”
“What a blessing such a watch would be,” I thought, “in real life! To be able to unsay some heedless word—to undo some reckless deed! Might I see the thing done?”
“With pleasure!” said the good natured Professor. “When I move this hand back to here,” pointing out the place, “History goes back fifteen minutes!”
 


I’ve yet to find an image of the book, but here’s a Christchurch church where Watson was a minister (lostchristchurch.org.nz).

   The Decline and Fall of the British Empire,
or The Witch’s Cavern

aka The Witch’s Cavern. A Realistic and Thrilling Picture of London Society
by Henry Crocker Marriott Watson
First publication: 1890

William Furley, an Australian in 2992, describes the fallen state of the British Empire and then travels to England where he meets a version of Alice’s White Rabbit and falls down a hole to 1890 London where he tries to warn people about the coming collapse.


No Time Travel.
Move along.
A.D. 2000 by Alvarado M. Fuller [long sleep ]
aka Back to Life (A.D. 2000): A Thrilling Novel

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, The San Francisco Examiner, 13 Jul 1890 [just a dream ]
aka “A Dead Man’s Dream”



   “Christmas Every Day”
by W.D. Howells
First publication: Christmas Every Day and Other Stories, 1892

A papa tells his little girl about another little girl who asks the Christmas Fairy to make it Christmas every day. She gets her wish, but is it time travel? Probably not in this case since they all continue to live through the year with December 26 being Christmas and Dec 27 being Christmas and December 28 being Christmas . . . And yet, I want to put this story in the Big Boys’ time travel list (rather than the promising-but-not-time-travel list) simple because Howells’ story was the 19th century departure point for so many other repeating-holiday stories a century later.

 After a while turkeys got to be awfully scarce, selling for about a thousand dollars apiece. They got to passing off almost anything for turkeys—even half-grown hummingbirds. And cranberries—well they asked a diamond apiece for cranberries. All the woods and orchards were cut down for Christmas trees. After a while they had to make Christmas trees out of rags. But there were plenty of rags, because people got so poor, buying presents for one another, that they couldn't get any new clothes, and they just wore their old ones to tatters. They got so poor that everybody had to go to the poorhouse, except the confectioners, and the storekeepers, and the book-sellers, and they all got so rich and proud that they would hardly wait upon a person when he came to buy. It was perfectly shameful! 




   “The Green Door”
by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
First publication: 1893

Young Letitia Hopkins, ungrateful orphaned and living with her great-great-aunt, is told to never even think about going through the little green door at the back of the house—a door that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere because there no egress on the outside where the door should come out. So, of course (this being a proper morality tale), Letitia does go through the door first chance she gets, and finds herself among Injuns and her own ancestors.

I’ve seen many references to the 1910 release of The Green Door in a slim volume (Illus. in color. Moffat Yard. 75 cents net.), but a 1911 review in the New York Times indicates that the story was first published “in a periodical some eighteen years ago.” I haven’t tracked down what that periodical was, so for now I’ll just list the story as being from 1893. I see that the story also appeared a few years later in the Times itself (13 Apr 1896). The wilkinsfreeman.org site lists the 1896 publication as the first, but that contradicts the later Times review.

 It seemed awful, and impossible, but the little green door led into the past, and Letitia Hopkins was visiting her great-great-great-grandfather and grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and her great-great-aunts. 



No Time Travel.
Move along.
“John Bartine’s Watch” by Ambrose Bierce, Can Such Things Be?, 1893 [ghost story ]

“The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce, New York Town Topics, 7 Dec 1893 [supernatural story ]

The essays were reprinted in this 1975 scholarly work edited by Robert Philmus and David Y. Hughes.

   The National Observer Essays
by H.G. Wells (as by Anonymous)
First story: 17 Mar 1894 - 23 Jun 1894

After his first fictional foray into time travel (“The Chronic Argonauts”), Wells anonymously published a series of seven fictionalized essays in The National Observer that contained the genesis of what was to come.
  1. Time Travelling: Possibility or Paradox? (17 Mar 1894)  
  2. The Time Machine (24 Mar 1894)  
  3. The Sunset of Mankind (28 Mar 1894)  
  4. The Refinement of Humanity: A.D. 12,203 (21 Apr 1894)  
  5. A.D. 12,203: A Glimpse of the Future (31 Apr 1894)  
  6. In the Underworld (19 May 1894)  
  7. The Time Traveller Returns (23 Jun 1894)  

 ‘Possibly not,’ said the Philosophical Inventor. ‘But now you begin to see the object of my investigations into the geometry of four dimensions. I have a vague inkling of a machine—’ 


 


20 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)