THE LETTER 09 (Spring 1997) pages 84-101
Morse is my name
In the final chapter of Colin Dexter’s Death is now my Neighbour, Chief Inspector Morse and his girlfriend Janet McQueen walk towards the Roman Baths of Bath, when Janet suddenly disturbs the silence to ask her ever grumpy partner a most delicate question: ‘Does he know your Christian name?’. Of course, the he is the ever jolly Sergeant Lewis, without whose dedication Morse could not possibly have solved the myriad complicated murder cases for which he has become famous. And of course, Morse has to admit that even his beloved assistant has been refused access to the mystery of his given name. But Janet insists: ‘How come you got lumbered with it ?’. Hesitantly, but ostensibly carried away on the wings of love, Morse reveals the story:
They both had to leave school early, my parents – they never had much of a chance in life themselves. That’s partly the reason, I suppose. They used to keep on at me about trying as hard as I could. They wanted me to do that. They expected me to do that. Sort of emotional blackmail really – when you come to think of it.
What Morse articulates here, is not unusual or peculiar, although his story is obviously highly singular. As a matter of fact, Morse’s…