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The Time Machine
by H. G. Wells
1895
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Contents
1
5
2
11
3
15
4
19
5
27
6
39
7
43
8
49
9
55
10
61
11
65
12
69
Epilogue
73
3
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4
CONTENTS
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Chapter 1
TheTimeTraveller(forsoitwillbeconvenienttospeakofhim)wasexpounding
areconditemattertous. Hisgreyeyesshoneandtwinkled,andhisusuallypale
facewas ushedandanimated. Thereburnedbrightly, andthesoftradianceof
theincandescentlightsin theliliesofsilvercaught thebubblesthat  ashedand
passed in ourglasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us
ratherthansubmittedtobesatupon,andtherewasthatluxuriousafter-dinner
atmospherewhenthoughtrunsgracefullyfreeofthetrammelsofprecision. And
he put it to us in this way|marking the points with a lean forenger|as we
sat andlazilyadmiredhisearnestnessoverthisnew paradox(aswethought it)
andhis fecundity.
‘You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas
that arealmost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught
you at school is founded on a misconception.’
‘Isnotthat rather a largething to expect us to beginupon?’ said Filby, an
argumentativeperson with red hair.
‘Ido notmeanto askyou to accept anythingwithout reasonableground for
it. You will soonadmitasmuchasIneed fromyou. Youknowofcoursethata
mathematicalline,alineofthicknessnil,hasnorealexistence. Theytaughtyou
that? Neither hasa mathematical plane. These things aremereabstractions.’
‘Thatis all right,’ said thePsychologist.
‘Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube have a real
existence.’
‘There I object,’ said Filby. ‘Of course a solid body may exist. All real
things|’
‘So most people think. But wait a moment. Can an instantaneous cube
exist?’
‘Don’t follow you,’ said Filby.
‘Can a cube thatdoesnot lastforany time at all, have a real existence?’
Filby became pensive. ‘Clearly,’ the Time Traveller proceeded, ‘any real
body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth,
Thickness, and|Duration. Butthrough a natural inrmity of the  esh, which
I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There
are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and
5
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6
CHAPTER1.
afourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction
between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that
our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from
thebeginning to theend ofour lives.’
‘That,’ saida veryyoung man, making spasmodiceorts to relighthiscigar
over the lamp; ‘that... very clear indeed.’
‘Now,itisveryremarkablethatthisissoextensivelyoverlooked,’continued
theTimeTraveller, witha slight accession of cheerfulness. ‘Reallythisis what
is meant by the Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about the
Fourth Dimensiondo notknow they mean it. It is onlyanother wayoflooking
at Time. There is no dierence between time and any of the three dimensions
of Space except that our consciousness moves along it. Butsomefoolishpeople
havegotholdofthewrong sideofthatidea. Youhaveallheardwhattheyhave
to sayaboutthisFourth Dimension?’
‘Ihavenot,’ saidtheProvincial Mayor.
‘Itissimplythis. ThatSpace,asourmathematicianshaveit,isspokenofas
having three dimensions, which one may call Length, Breadth, and Thickness,
and isalways denable byreference to threeplanes, each at rightangles to the
others. But some philosophical people have been asking why three dimensions
particularly|why not another direction at right angles to the other three?|
andhaveeventriedtoconstructaFour-Dimensionalgeometry. ProfessorSimon
Newcomb was expounding this to the New York Mathematical Society only a
monthorsoago. Youknowhowona atsurface,whichhasonlytwodimensions,
we can represent a gure of a three-dimensional solid, and similarlythey think
that by models of three dimensions they could represent one of four|if they
could mastertheperspective of the thing. See?’
‘I think so,’ murmured the Provincial Mayor; and, knitting his brows, he
lapsed into an introspective state, his lips moving as one who repeats mystic
words. ‘Yes, IthinkIseeitnow,’ hesaid aftersometime,brighteninginaquite
transitorymanner.
‘Well, Ido not mind telling you Ihave been atwork upon this geometry of
Four Dimensions for some time. Some of my results are curious. For instance,
here is a portrait of a man at eight years old, another at fteen, another at
seventeen, another attwenty-three, and so on. All theseare evidently sections,
as it were, Three-Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensioned being,
which is a xed and unalterablething.
‘Scientic people,’ proceeded the Time Traveller, after the pause required
for the properassimilation of this, ‘know very well that Time is only a kind of
Space. Here is a popularscientic diagram, a weather record. ThislineI trace
withmyngershowsthemovementofthebarometer. Yesterdayitwasso high,
yesterday night it fell, then this morning it rose again, and so gently upward
to here. Surely the mercury did not trace this line in any ofthe dimensions of
Spacegenerally recognized? But certainly it traced such a line, and that line,
therefore, wemustconclude wasalong the Time-Dimension.’
‘But,’ said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the re, ‘if Time is
really only a fourth dimension ofSpace, whyis it, andwhyhasitalways been,
7
regarded assomethingdierent? AndwhycannotwemoveinTimeaswemove
aboutin theother dimensions of Space?’
The Time Traveller smiled. ‘Are you sure we can move freely in Space?
Rightandleftwecango, backwardand forwardfreelyenough, andmen always
have done so. I admit we move freely in two dimensions. But how about up
anddown? Gravitation limits us there.’
‘Notexactly,’ said the Medical Man. ‘Thereareballoons.’
‘Butbeforetheballoons, savefor spasmodicjumping andtheinequalitiesof
thesurface, manhad no freedomofvertical movement.’
‘Still theycouldmove a little up and down,’ saidtheMedical Man.
‘Easier, fareasierdownthanup.’
‘And youcannot moveatallinTime,youcannotgetawayfrom thepresent
moment.’
‘Mydearsir, thatisjustwhereyouarewrong. Thatis justwherethewhole
worldhasgonewrong. Wearealwaysgetting awayfromthepresentmovement.
Ourmental existences, which areimmaterial andhaveno dimensions, arepass-
ing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the
grave. Justasweshould travel downifwebegan ourexistenceftymiles above
theearth’s surface.’
‘Butthegreatdicultyisthis,’ interruptedthePsychologist. ‘Youcanmove
aboutin all directions ofSpace, but you cannot move about inTime.’
‘Thatis thegermof my great discovery. But you arewrong to say that we
cannot move about in Time. For instance, if I am recalling an incident very
vividly I go back to the instant of its occurrence: I become absent-minded, as
you say. I jump back for a moment. Of course we have no means of staying
backforanylengthoftime, anymorethana savageor an animal hasofstaying
six feet above theground. But a civilised man is better othan the savage in
thisrespect. Hecan go up againstgravitationin a balloon, andwhyshouldhe
not hope that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along
theTime-Dimension, or even turnaboutand travel theotherway?’
‘Oh, this,’ began Filby, ‘isall|’
‘Whynot?’ said the TimeTraveller.
‘It’sagainstreason,’ saidFilby.
‘Whatreason?’ said the TimeTraveller.
‘You can show black is white by argument,’ said Filby, ‘but you will never
convinceme.’
‘Possiblynot,’ saidtheTimeTraveller. ‘Butnowyou begintoseetheobject
of my investigations into the geometry of Four Dimensions. Long ago I had a
vague inkling of a machine|’
‘To travel through Time!’ exclaimedtheVery Young Man.
‘That shall travel indierently in any direction of Space and Time, as the
driver determines.’
Filby contentedhimself with laughter.
‘ButI haveexperimental verication,’ said theTime Traveller.
‘Itwould beremarkably convenientforthehistorian,’ thePsychologistsug-
gested. ‘Onemighttravel backandverifytheaccepted account oftheBattleof
8
CHAPTER1.
Hastings, for instance!’
‘Don’tyou thinkyou wouldattractattention?’ said the Medical Man. ‘Our
ancestors had no greattoleranceforanachronisms.’
‘Onemightgetone’sGreekfromtheverylipsofHomerandPlato,’theVery
Young Man thought.
‘InwhichcasetheywouldcertainlyploughyoufortheLittle-go. TheGerman
scholarshaveimproved Greek so much.’
‘Thenthereisthefuture,’saidtheVeryYoung Man. ‘Justthink! Onemight
investall one’s money, leaveitto accumulateatinterest, and hurry on ahead!’
‘To discover a society,’ said I, ‘erected on a strictlycommunisticbasis.’
‘Of all thewild extravaganttheories!’ began thePsychologist.
‘Yes, so it seemedto me, and so Inever talkedofit until|’
‘Experimental verication!’ criedI. ‘You aregoing to verifythat?’
‘Theexperiment!’ cried Filby, who wasgetting brain-weary.
‘Let’s see your experiment anyhow,’ said the Psychologist, ‘though it’s all
humbug, you know.’
TheTime Traveller smiled round at us. Then, still smiling faintly, and with
his hands deep in his trousers pockets, hewalked slowly out of theroom, and
we heard hisslippers shuing down the long passage to his laboratory.
ThePsychologist lookedat us. ‘Iwonder whathe’s got?’
‘Somesleight-of-hand trickor other,’ said the Medical Man, and Filbytried
to tell us abouta conjurer hehad seen at Burslem; but before he had nished
his prefacetheTimeTravellercameback, and Filby’sanecdote collapsed.
The thing the Time Traveller held in his hand was a glittering metallic
framework, scarcelylarger thana small clock, and very delicatelymade. There
was ivory in it, and some transparent crystalline substance. And now I must
be explicit, for this that follows|unless his explanation is to be accepted|is
an absolutely unaccountable thing. Hetook one of thesmall octagonal tables
that werescatteredabouttheroom, and setitinfrontofthere,withtwo legs
on the hearthrug. On this table he placed the mechanism. Then he drew up
achair, and sat down. The only other object on the tablewas a small shaded
lamp,thebrightlightofwhichfellfulluponthemodel. Therewerealsoperhaps
adozencandlesabout, twoinbrasscandlesticks upon themantelandseveralin
sconces, so that theroom was brilliantly illuminated. I sat in a low arm-chair
nearest the re, and I drew this forward so as to be almost between the Time
Traveller and the replace. Filby sat behind him, looking over his shoulder.
The Medical Man and the Provincial Mayor watched him in prole from the
right, the Psychologist from the left. The Very Young Man stood behind the
Psychologist. We were all on the alert. It appears incredible to me that any
kind of trick, however subtly conceived and however adroitly done, could have
been played upon us under these conditions.
The Time Traveller looked at us, and then at the mechanism. ‘Well?’ said
thePsychologist.
‘Thislittleaair,’saidtheTimeTraveller,resting hiselbowsuponthetable
and pressing his hands together above the apparatus, ‘is only a model. It is
my plan for a machine to travel through time. You will notice that it looks
9
singularlyaskew, andthatthereisanoddtwinkling appearanceaboutthisbar,
as though it was in some way unreal.’ He pointed to the part with his nger.
‘Also, here is onelittlewhitelever, and hereis another.’
The Medical Man got up out of his chair and peered into the thing. ‘It’s
beautifullymade,’ he said.
‘Ittooktwoyearstomake,’retortedtheTimeTraveller. Then,whenwehad
all imitated theaction of theMedical Man, he said: ‘Now Iwantyou clearlyto
understand that this lever, being pressed over, sends the machine gliding into
the future, and this other reverses themotion. This saddle represents the seat
ofa timetraveller. Presently Iamgoing to press thelever,andothemachine
will go. It will vanish, pass into futureTime, and disappear. Havea goodlook
at thething. Lookat the tabletoo, and satisfyyourselves there is no trickery.
Idon’twant to waste this model, and then betold I’ma quack.’
There was a minute’s pause perhaps. The Psychologist seemed about to
speak to me, but changed his mind. Then the Time Traveller put forth his
nger towards the lever. ‘No,’ he said suddenly. ‘Lend me your hand.’ And
turning to thePsychologist, hetookthat individual’s hand in his ownand told
himto put outhisforenger. So that it was thePsychologist himselfwho sent
forththemodel TimeMachineon itsinterminablevoyage. Weall saw thelever
turn. Iamabsolutelycertaintherewasnotrickery. Therewasabreathofwind,
and the lamp  ame jumped. Oneof the candles on themantel was blown out,
andthelittlemachinesuddenly swung round, became indistinct, was seen asa
ghost for asecond perhaps, asaneddyof faintlyglittering brassandivory;and
it wasgone|vanished! Savefor thelamp the table wasbare.
Every onewas silent for a minute. Then Filbysaidhewas damned.
The Psychologist recoveredfrom hisstupor, and suddenlylooked underthe
table. At that the Time Traveller laughed cheerfully. ‘Well?’ he said, with a
reminiscenceofthePsychologist. Then, getting up, he went to thetobacco jar
on the mantel, and with hisbackto us began to ll hispipe.
We stared at each other. ‘Look here,’ said the Medical Man, ‘are you in
earnest about this? Do you seriously believe that that machine has travelled
into time?’
‘Certainly,’ said the Time Traveller, stooping to light a spill at the re.
Then he turned, lighting his pipe, to look at the Psychologist’s face. (The
Psychologist, to show thathewas not unhinged, helped himself to a cigarand
tried to lightit uncut.) ‘Whatis more, Ihave a big machinenearly nished in
there’|he indicatedthelaboratory|‘and when thatisput togetherI mean to
havea journeyon my ownaccount.’
‘You mean to say that that machine has travelled into the future?’ said
Filby.
‘Into thefuture or the past|I don’t, forcertain, know which.’
After an interval the Psychologist had an inspiration. ‘It must have gone
into thepastifit hasgoneanywhere,’ hesaid.
‘Why?’ said theTime Traveller.
‘BecauseIpresumethatithasnotmovedinspace, andifittravelledintothe
futureit would still be hereall this time, since it must have travelled through
10
CHAPTER1.
this time.’
‘But,’ said I, ‘If it travelled into the past it would have been visible when
we came rst into this room; and last Thursday when we were here; and the
Thursday before that; and so forth!’
‘Serious objections,’ remarked the Provincial Mayor, with an air of impar-
tiality, turning towards the TimeTraveller.
‘Not a bit,’ said the Time Traveller, and, to the Psychologist: ‘You think.
Youcan explain that. It’s presentationbelow thethreshold, youknow, diluted
presentation.’
‘Of course,’ said the Psychologist, and reassured us. ‘That’sa simplepoint
of psychology. I should have thought of it. It’s plain enough, and helps the
paradoxdelightfully. Wecannotseeit,norcanweappreciatethis machine, any
morethan wecan thespokeofa wheel spinning, ora bullet ying through the
air. Ifitistravelling through timeftytimes ora hundred times fasterthanwe
are, if it gets through a minutewhileweget through a second, the impression
it createswill ofcoursebe only one-ftieth orone-hundredth of what it would
makeifitwerenottravelling in time. That’splainenough.’ Hepassed hishand
throughthespaceinwhichthemachinehadbeen. ‘Yousee?’ hesaid,laughing.
We sat and stared at the vacant table for a minute or so. Then the Time
Traveller asked us whatwe thought of it all.
‘Itsounds plausibleenough to-night,’ said the Medical Man; ‘but wait until
to-morrow. Wait for the common senseofthemorning.’
‘Would you like to see the TimeMachine itself?’ asked theTime Traveller.
And therewith, taking the lamp in his hand, he led the way down the long,
draughty corridor to his laboratory. Iremember vividlythe ickering light, his
queer, broad head in silhouette, thedance oftheshadows, how we all followed
him, puzzledbutincredulous,andhowthereinthelaboratorywebeheldalarger
edition of the littlemechanism which wehad seen vanish from beforeour eyes.
Parts were of nickel, parts of ivory, parts had certainly been led or sawn out
of rock crystal. The thing was generally complete, but the twisted crystalline
bars lay unnished upon thebenchbeside somesheets of drawings, and I took
one up for a better lookat it. Quartzitseemed to be.
‘Look here,’ said the Medical Man, ‘are you perfectly serious? Or is this a
trick|likethatghost you showed us last Christmas?’
‘Upon that machine,’ said the Time Traveller, holding the lamp aloft, ‘I
intend to explore time. Isthatplain? Iwas nevermore seriousin mylife.’
Noneof us quiteknew how to takeit.
Icaught Filby’s eye over the shoulder of the Medical Man, and he winked
atmesolemnly.
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