In 1955, in a San Francisco used bookstore, Dr. Alfred Kessler, an avid collector of the works of G.K. Chesterton, uncovered a rare treasure—Chesterton’s personal copy of a privately published edition of Holbrook Jackson’s Platitudes in the Making (1911) with original responses by Chesterton written in green pencil between lines of Jackson’s book.
One can easily imagine Chesterton, upon reception of the volume from his literary friend Jackson, settling comfortably near the fireplace, chuckling and chortling as he read and jotted down in a spirit of friendship, fun, and fairness his own insightful observations.
Chesterton and Jackson were contemporaries and friends with much in common. Both were literary critics and had written biographies of George Bernard Shaw. Their paths, however, crossed and diverged because of their literary interests and philosophical differences. Jackson fancied himself a disciple of Nietzche and Fabian Socialism while Chesterton’s mind and heart took a turn toward Christian philosophy.
Since 1911, this unknown Chesterton “book within a book” has been seen by only a priveleged few. But in 1997, Ignatius Press released a beautiful facsimile edition of the marked-up book titled, Platitudes Undone (Ignatius Press, hardcover, 105 pages). The book looked as if Chesterton himself had written right in it with his green pencil, and it allowed Chestertonians everywhere to glimpse the remarkable wisdom and humor of this literary giant “at play.”
But with similar luck to Dr. Kessler, I recently stumbled across a used copy at our Friends of the Library bookstore for just $0.50. It’s such a cool book that I scanned some of the pages to share here. They provide answers to anyone who ever wondered what it would be like for Chesterton to edit his or her writing. Enjoy!