The Clock That Went Backward UP184

"The Clock That Went Backward" is an 1881 fantasy short story by Edward Page Mitchell. Mitchell questions whether the laws of cause and effect might ever work in reverse. 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 relive the 16th century Spanish siege of Leiden.

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