Both G.K. Chesterton and Fr. Dudley wrote during the same period of time, about the same issues, and with the same basic point of view.
Chesterton wrote a substantive introduction to Fr. Dudley’s first book, Will Men be like Gods? Fr. Dudley, in turn, wrote a foreward to A Chesterton Catholic Anthology (1928, edited by Patrick Braybrooke).
Dudley’s novels have been compared to Fr. Brown mysteries, and there is some basis for that in 4 of his 7 novels, but the similarities primarily rests upon priest + adventure due to the vast differences between Fr. Brown and the Masterful Monk.
Dudley was primarily successful as a novelist–and a more readable one than Chesterton. Chesterton was the better essayist (although The Man Who Was Thursday was a beautifully written novel, and Chesterton was also a poet, playwright, and artist). Chesterton’s novels tended toward the fantastic; Dudley’s towards the concrete.
Dudley has characters debates with each other: the Catholic response is quite often like a Chesterton essay. Perhaps the arguments even more powerful in the fictional form, because they are interwoven into plots and character development. To illustrate, the speech of the Masterful Monk in Chapter X starts off:
[A]t the far left of the platform, a curtain was drawn aside. A figure came though, and walked slowly towards the center…Brother Anselm in his monk’s habit… The monk stood immovable to the ovation, singularly calm, the long lines of his habit accentuated in the stream of light from above…. The thunder abated…. Into the expectant hush the monk’s voice broke, deep and easy and powerful…
This adds drama beyond what you would find in an essay. And then later:
It must have been a slight movement of hers that caused Basil to glance at Beauty. There was a white, strained look in her face. He hesitated. `Anything the matter?’ he whispered. Her `No, no, I’m all right’ did not quite reassure him. He turned, however to the platform again.
By this time in the novel, you have come to care about Beauty and understand the terrible danger she is in. In this fictional form, you seen an immediate example of what is at stake: human happiness and immortal souls.
Of course, Fr. Dudley’s writing were more explicitly and specifically Catholic than G.K. Chesterton:
- Dudley was raised by an Anglican Vicar; G.K. Chesterton was raised with little religious emphasis.
- Chesterton converted to Catholicism 7 years later than Dudley and when he was 15 years older.
- Dudley was a Roman Catholic priest/evangelist; Chesterton was a layman.