The Time Machine

"I drew a breath, set my teeth, gripped the starting lever with both hands, and went off with a thud. The laboratory got hazy and went dark. Mrs. Watchett came in and walked, apparently without seeing me, towards the garden door. I suppose it took her a minute or so to traverse the place, but to me she seemed to shoot across the room like a rocket. I pressed the lever over to its extreme position. The night came like the turning out of a lamp, and in another moment came to-morrow. The laboratory grew faint and hazy, then fainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then day again, night again, day again, faster and faster still. An eddying murmur filled my ears, and a strange, dumb confusedness descended on my mind."

And so the Time Traveller begins his epic journey in the third chapter of H. G Wells’s (1866-1946) classic science-fiction novel ‘The Time Machine’. His ground-breaking work has been considered by many to be one of the greatest science fiction books of all time and has been adapted into at least two major films. My favourite is the George Pal 1960 version starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimeux. With a new year about to start and the old one passing into memory, the thought of Time Travel, particularly amongst historians as well as scientists, remains a fascinating and exciting concept.

So what has this to do with Robin Hood I hear you ask? Well, in 1995 the Royal Mail sponsored a survey on ‘time travel,’ for children between the ages of nine and fourteen, to celebrate the centenary of the first publication of Wells’s Time Machine. Later that same year a series of commemorative stamps were issued and on June 7th 1995 The Independent newspaper printed the results of the survey:

“The Prime Minister topped the poll for least popular travelling companion. Most popular choice of companion to see off aliens and dinosaurs was the Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs. Seventy-one per cent wanted to visit the future, while 29 per cent wanted to visit past periods such as the prehistoric era, the Second World War and the Elizabethan age.

Those opting for the future wanted to know who their friends would be, whether the rain forests would survive and whether people would live in space. Almost 40 per cent believed there was life on other planets, and 14 per cent thought that aliens were already living among us.

The most alluring figures in history were Robin Hood (whom 22 per cent wished to meet), Elvis Presley (15 per cent) and Jesus (13 per cent). Somewhat surprisingly, 14 per cent of the girls surveyed wanted to meet Henry VIII.”


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