What if G.K. Chesterton edited your writing?

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.”

Unfortunately, the book is currently out of print. You can find it used on Amazon for around $50 or around $55 at other used bookstores.

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!

Platitudes - Sample 1
Gotta love the horn-blowing devil sketch.
Platitudes - Sample 2
I love the rabbit quote.
Platitudes - Sample 3
Chesterton’s characteristic pithiness on full display.
  • David T.
  • David T.
  • James

    Top sample, point one, I cannot read Mr. Chesteron’s remarks. Can someone help, please?

    • Sure! I believe GKC says:

      “No: it is time to build another idea on it. You are always negative and you build nothing.”

      • James

        Thanks so much! 😀

      • Hieronymus_Illinensis

        I think it’s “You are always rejecting if you build nothing.”

  • Lin

    Just looking through these images makes my heart leap for joy. Let’s petition Ignatius to bring it back to print!

  • Cgibb14

    I think this article pushed up the price of this book on Amazon! When I click on your link it says that the lowest price is $120. Guess I’ll just have to look around used book stores for the next couple years.

  • Great stuff! TA

  • Pedro Erik

    Fantastic, Brandon. Many thanks for the opportunity to see Chesterton in action.
    I do not have any chance of finding this book in Brazil, where I lived. But I have amazon.

    I think I will mention your post in my blog to Portuguese readers (thyselfolord.blogspot.com)

    Pedro Erik

  • I love this book myself, and have probably read it dozens of times as an exercise in critical thinking, quick wit, intelligent response, and most importantly, levity and humor. I once found four or five copies of this book for a dollar each at an outlet mall bookstore, snatched them up, and now loan them out to my friends. Thanks for highlighting this “book within a book,” Brandon!

    • Wow! And I thought I was lucky finding a single copy for $0.50. You hit the jackpot!