| || 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!”