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Endeavour Morse
Inspector Morse.jpg
Morse (left) as played by John Thaw in the television adaptation, with Lewis (right) as played by Kevin Whately.
First appearance Last Bus to Woodstock, 1975 novel
The Dead of Jericho, 1987 TV
Last appearance The Remorseful Day, 2000
Created by Colin Dexter
Portrayed by John Thaw
Episode count 33
Gender Male
Occupation Police Detective
Title Detective Chief Inspector
Nationality English

Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse is a fictional character in a series of thirteen detective novels by British author Colin Dexter, as well as the 33 episode television series produced by Central Independent Television from 1987–2000, in which he was portrayed by John Thaw. Morse is a senior CID (Criminal Investigation Department) officer with the Thames Valley Police in Oxford, England. With a Jaguar car (originally a Lancia), a thirst for beer and a penchant for music (especially opera and Wagner), poetry, art, classics, English real ale, classic cars, and cryptic crossword puzzles, Morse presents a likeable persona, despite his sullen temperament.


Name and Family

Morse's first name, "Endeavour", was kept a secret until the end of Death is Now My Neighbour (traditionally Morse claimed that he should be called 'Morse' or joked that his first name was 'Inspector'). In the series it is noted that his reticence about his "Christian" name led to a public school (Stamford School) nickname of "Pagan". The origin of his name is the vessel HM Bark Endeavour, as Morse's mother was a Quaker (Quakers have a tradition of "virtue names") and his father was a fan of Captain James Cook. The author of the Morse novels, Colin Dexter, is a fan of cryptic crosswords, and Morse is named after champion solver Sir Jeremy Morse, one of Dexter´s arch-rivals as a clue-writer in the crossword world[1].

During the episode "Cherubim and Seraphim," we learn that Morse's parents divorced when he was 12, but that he remained with his mother, until her death 3 years later. He has a half-sister, Joyce, and a dreadful relationship[1] with his stepmother, Gwen. He claimed he only read poetry to annoy her and that her petty bullying almost drove him to suicide.

Habits and Personality

Morse is ostensibly the embodiment of white, male, upper-middle-class Englishness, with a set of prejudices and assumptions to match. He may thus be considered a late example of the gentleman detective, a staple of British detective fiction. This background is in sharp juxtaposition to the working class origins of his assistant, Lewis (named for another rival clue-writer, Mrs. B. Lewis); in the novels Lewis is Welsh, but this was altered to a northern (Geordie) background in the TV series. He is also middle-aged in the books.

Morse's relationships with authority, the establishment, bastions of power and the status quo are markedly ambiguous, as sometimes are his relations with women. Morse is frequently portrayed in the act of patronising women characters, to the extent that some feminist critics have argued that Morse is a misogynist.[2]

Morse is a highly intelligent individual. He dislikes spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, demonstrated by the fact that in every personal or private document written to him he manages to point out at least one spelling mistake. He claims his approach to crime-solving is deductive and one of his key tenets is that "there is a 50 per cent chance that the last person to see the victim alive was the murderer". In reality it is the pathologists who deduce, Morse uses intuition and his fantastic memory to get to the killer.


Although details of Morse's career are deliberately kept vague, it is hinted that as a schoolboy he won a scholarship to study at St John's College, Oxford. He lost the scholarship as the result of poor academic performance, which in turn resulted from a failed love affair (mentioned in the series at the end of "The Last Enemy" and in the novel The Riddle of the Third Mile). Forced to leave the University, he entered the Army, and on leaving it, joined the Police. He often reflects on renowned scholars (such as A. E. Housman) who, like himself, failed to get academic degrees from Oxford.


The novels in the series are:

Inspector Morse also appears in several stories in Dexter's short story collection, Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories (1993, expanded edition 1994).

Dexter killed off Morse in his last book, The Remorseful Day. Morse dies in hospital from complications of his neglected diabetes, a disease Colin Dexter shares.


The Inspector Morse novels were made into a TV series (also called Inspector Morse) for the British TV channel ITV. The series was made by Zenith Productions for Central (a company later acquired by Carlton) and comprises 33 two-hour episodes (100 minutes excluding commercials) — twenty more episodes than there are novels — produced between 1987 and 2000. The last episode was adapted from the final novel, The Remorseful Day, which incorporated the main character's surname.


An occasional BBC Radio 4 series (for the Saturday Play) was made starring the voices of John Shrapnel as Morse and Robert Glenister as Lewis. The series was written by Guy Meredith and directed by Ned Chaillet. Episodes included: The Wench is Dead (28 March 1992); Last Seen Wearing (28 May 1994); and The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (10 February 1996).

Further reading

  • Allen, Paul and Jan, Endeavoring to Crack the Morse Code (Inspector Morse) Exposure Publishing (2006)
  • Bishop, David, The Complete Inspector Morse: From the Original Novels to the TV Series London: Reynolds & Hearn (2006) ISBN 1-9052871-3-5
  • Bird, Christopher, The World of Inspector Morse: A Complete A-Z Reference for the Morse Enthusiast Foreword by Colin Dexter London: Boxtree (1998) ISBN 0752221175
  • Goodwin, Cliff, Inspector Morse Country : An Illustrated Guide to the World of Oxford's famous detective London: Headline (2002) ISBN 0755310640
  • Leonard, Bill, The Oxford of Inspector Morse: Films Locations History Location Guides, Oxford (2004) ISBN 0-9547671-1-X
  • Richards, Anthony and Philip Attwell, The Oxford of Inspector Morse
  • Richards, Anthony, Inspector Morse On Location
  • Sanderson, Mark, The Making of Inspector Morse Pan Macmillan (1995) ISBN 0330344188


  1. ^ Colin Dexter in Super Sleuths: Inspector Morse. Director: Katie Kinnaird
  2. ^ e.g. Review: Death Is Now My Neighbour by Val McDermid.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Inspector Morse was a television series starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately, based on the books by Colin Dexter.


Regular Quotes

  • Various women: "I can't go on calling you Inspector. What's your name?"
Morse: "Morse, everyone just calls me Morse"
  • Morse: LEW-IS!
  • Morse: You've done it again, Lewis. [Said when Lewis unwittingly helps Morse to solve a mystery through a passive remark.]

1st Series, 1987:

Episode 1. The Dead of Jericho

Episode 2. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn

Episode 3. Service of All the Dead

2nd Series, 1988:

Episode 4. The Wolvercote Tongue

Episode 5. Last Seen Wearing

  • Morse: Have you ever thought about the person who designed the sports skirt. Somebody sat down and drew a fantasy and made it compulsory uniform. I can never watch Wimbledon without thanking that man.

Episode 6. The Settling of the Sun

Episode 7. Last Bus to Woodstock

3rd Series, 1989:

Episode 8. Ghost in the Machine

  • Morse: Get an ambulance to Hanbury House as fast as you can. Some fool in a sports car just drove into a tree.
  • Lewis: Was it from 'Cats'?
Morse No it was not from 'Cats'!
Lewis Oh, the wife wants to see 'Cats'. Don't know why, she's allergic to them.

Episode 9. The Last Enemy

Episode 10. Deceived by Flight

Episode 11. The Secret of Bay 5B

4th Series, 1990:

Episode 12. The Infernal Serpent

Episode 13. The Sins of the Fathers

Episode 14. Driven to Distraction

Episode 15. Masonic Mysteries

DeVries:'re sweating, Morse. It's most disagreeable.

(Door-bell rings)

DeVries: Who is that?

Morse: My sargeant.

DeVries: What is it with you English policemen? Going around in pairs like some low comedy act.

Lewis: (Seeing the DeVries Jaguar): Nice car!

Morse: (dismissingly) No class, these new models.

5th Series, 1991:

Episode 16. Second Time Around

Episode 17. Fat Chance

  • Lewis: Who, cigar and cassock? [Enquiring after a chain-smoking female priest.]

Episode 18. Who Killed Harry Field?

Episode 19. Greeks Bearing Gifts

Episode 20. Promised Land

  • Morse: They don't spell Australian beer with four X's out of ignorance!
  • Ann Harding: You're a bastard, Morse.
  • Lewis: ...and my name's Robert. My friends call me Robbie.
  • Lewis: How old are you, sir?
Morse: I forget, Robbie.

6th Series, 1992:

Episode 21. Dead on Time

Episode 22. Happy Families

Episode 23. The Death of the Self

Episode 24. Absolute Conviction

Episode 25. Cherubim and Seraphim

7th Series, 1993:

Episode 26. Deadly Slumber

Episode 27. The Day of the Devil

Episode 28. Twilight of the Gods

Specials, 1995–2000:

Episode 29. The Way Through the Woods

Episode 30. The Daughters of Cain

Episode 31. Death Is Now My Neighbour

  • Adele Cecil: This anagram, "around eve"—I've tried and I've tried, but all I can come up with is "Endeavour". And no-one's called Endeavour, surely?
Morse: I told you—my mother was a Quaker, and Quakers sometimes call their children names like Hope, and Patience. My father was obsessed with Captain Cook, and his ship was called Endeavour. Why aren't you both laughing?
Lewis: You poor sod.
Adele Cecil: I'm not calling you "Endeavour".
Lewis: Call him "sir". He likes that.
Adele Cecil: Oh no, no,—I'll stick to "Morse", like everyone else.
Morse: [Raises his glass of beer.] Cheers.

Episode 32. The Wench Is Dead

Episode 33. The Remorseful Day

  • Lewis: Goodbye, Sir

External links

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