The Clock that Went Backward

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"The Clock That Went Backward" is a fantasy short story by Edward Page Mitchell.[1][2][3][4]


Aunt Gertrude's antique 16th century clock, when run backwards by two boys, is found to reverse the flow of time. This enables the boys to time-travel and participate in a short Henty-like historical adventure in which they help to relieve the 16th century Spanish siege of Leiden.

Publication history[edit]

This short story for boys was published anonymously in The Sun newspaper on September 18, 1881, and not thereafter collected or publicised. As such it was a very ephemeral and slight work for juveniles, and it was not noticed by the critics of the time.[5]


The story was rediscovered in the 1970s, and published in 1973 by Sam Moskowitz in his collection The Tachypomp and other stories which assembled Mitchell's seven fantasy and science-fiction stories published from 1874-1881. The story is now regarded as the first known instance of using a device for time travel and the first instance of a temporal paradox in fiction.[6][7] Any influence it may have had on later writers is however uncertain. Given its publication history in an American daily newspaper, it is very unlikely that the British writers H. G. Wells and Lewis Carroll knew of the story before they wrote their works which used devices or machines to time-travel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vandermeer. The Time Traveler's Almanac. TOR. pp. 154, 450. The Clock That Went Backward, published anonymously in 1881 in The New York Sun newspaper is the first time-travel story ever published, coming out several years before HG Well's The Time Machine. Although it is popularly believed that The Chronic Argonauts was the first fiction published with a time-travel theme, another story, also in this anthology, predates it by almost a decade: Edward Page Mitchell's The Clock That Went Backward
  2. ^ Toomey, David. The New Time Travelers: A Journey to the Frontiers of Physics. p. 26.
  3. ^ The Time Chronicles. p. 5.
  4. ^ The Science Fiction Handbook. p. 15.
  5. ^ Bleiler, Everett F., Science Fiction: The Early Years, Kent State University Press, 1990, page 509.
  6. ^ "Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction". p. 55. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  7. ^ Pickover. Time: A Traveler's Guide. pp. xiv.

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