Morse Episode, ‘The Sins of the Fathers’: Music, Art and Literary References.


Hello everyone. The sun is shining and daffodils are about to burst open in my garden. Is Spring upon us or is nature lulling us into a false sense of security? I think it is probably the latter as Scotland has a habit of doing a lot of lulling when it comes to the weather.

Welcome to another post in my series on the art, music and literary references included in the episodes of the original Morse series. I hope you are well.

To read my review of this episode click here. I have of course added the information from here to the review which was written some years ago.

Once I have finished with each series I will post a downloadable excel sheet for each category; music, art and literary references. This would allow everyone who downloads said excel sheets to print them off for personal use. Hopefully, having these print outs next to you while you watch the episode will be of help in identifying your favourite pieces of music from all three series. In the same vein the downloadable excel sheets will I hope help in your enjoyment and appreciation of the art and literary references used in all three series.

Of course I am not infallible (I know I was shocked to realise that trait in myself😉 ) so if you should spot an error or omission then please let me know and I will update my post with the new information.

The time of the pieces of music et cetera are based on the British DVD versions of the shows. However, the times shown should not be to dissimilar from other countries versions or should be easy to pinpoint what I am referring to and when.

The Sins of the Fathers: Series 4, Episode 2.

Chronologically this is episode 13.


Only two pieces of music in the episode, other than Barrington Pheloung’s incidental music, is from the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s (1813 -1901) La Traviata which is played at different times through the episode. The section that is always used in the episode is called Follie, follie/Sempre libera.

The music is first played when Morse talks to the Lisa Harrow character Thelma Radford. That is at 55 minutes and 13 seconds. It is then played again in Morse’s office and at his home and while he is washing the car.


Morse is in his office and decides to catch 40 winks. He asks Lewis to place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door and then turns on the radio. The music playing is Franz Schubert’s (1797 – 1828) String Quartet No.10 in E flat major, op.125 No.1.

If you enjoy all the music from the Morse series I have collected all the pieces I have identified thus far and have created playlists on YouTube. On how to access these playlists please read the relevant post by clicking here.

Or click here to my Youtube channel where you will find the music of Morse and Endeavour contained in playlists.

Literary References


First up is an offhand comment by Morse when Lewis states that the first victim, Trevor Radford, one of the brewers found him at the bottom of a vat. Morse replies, “Just like poor old Clarence.”

Morse is referring to the Duke of Clarence (a.k.a. Clarence) the brother of King Edward IV and Richard III. He was convicted of treason against his brother, Edward IV, and was executed (allegedly by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine). He appears as a character in William Shakespeare‘s plays Henry VI, part 3 and Richard III, in which his death is attributed to the machinations of Richard.


Morse: That was a curious phrase she used (Thelma Radford), last and definitely least.

Lewis: But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Morse: Very good Lewis where did you pick that up?

Lewis: Sunday school Sir.

Morse: And what’s its relevance?

Lewis: It means Sir, that one of these days I’m going to be a Chief Inspector. And you’re going to be a Sergeant Sir.

Below is the look Morse gives Lewis after this remark.


So, where does the phrase Lewis uses, “But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first” actually come from. It is from the Bible Matthew 19:30 and Mark 10:31. It appears again in Luke 13:30 but in a slightly different form; “And indeed, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.”


The next literary remark is made by Thelma Radford in Helen Radford’s house to Helen. Thelma remarks that Trevor Radford was in Stephen Radford’s way, business wise. Thelma says it is the old “Jacob and Esau thing. One brother depriving the other of his birth right.”


Lisa Harrow as Thelma Radford on the right and Kim Thomson as Helen Radford.

This is referring to The Book of Genesis which speaks of the relationship between Jacob and Esau, focusing on Esau’s loss of his birthright to Jacob.


Morse is interviewing Isabel Radford and asks,

Morse: And you don’t blame her?

Isabel: Accidents will happen even in the best regulated families.

Morse: Mr Micawber.

Isabel: I thought it was W.C. Fields.

The quote is from Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield. The exact quote from the novel is;

My dear friend Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘accidents will occur in the best-regulated families; and in families not regulated by that.”

W.C. Fields was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer.  Fields played Mr Micawber in the 1935 film version of David Copperfield.


The next quote is said by Isabel Radford to Morse:

“Must the evil that men do live after them?”

This is from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and is said by Brutus. The exact quote is “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”


There was only one piece of art I could identify and that was at 56 minutes and thirty seconds. Morse is talking to Thelma Radford in her swimming pool area. On the wall behind Morse we can see a print of one of the brilliant British David Hockney paintings.


Below is the original, Day Pool with Three Blues.

Up next is a print in Morse’s home.



This appears to be a generic print of the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

So good people we have come to the end of another post. I hope you found something to whet your cultural appetite. The next post in this series will be about the episode, Driven to Distraction. Until then, take care.


Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died in, 2020, of Covid. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

8 thoughts

  1. This is a brilliant guide. The episode is equally wonderful for the excellent acting by the array of star performers.
    Thanks again, will have to watch it again.

  2. I agree that this is a fantastic post, and what a great idea to examine in more depth all the great references in Morse. I’m working my way through the original series now (after watching all of Inspector Lewis religiously) and can’t wait to read your posts about each episode as I watch them. Thanks so much!!

  3. I think the Shakespeare allusion is to Caesar’s funeral oration by Antony, not Brutus.

  4. Dear Chris,
    oh my, how I appreciate all the golden nuggets you’ve pulled from this wonderful episode of the series that introduced this Yank to true, well-acted mysteries. Indeed, the overarching website is a great find! Morse episodes in the 90s were the first to show me just how sophisticated a mystery can be, and the spinoffs just as good.

    I regret that since the 90s I’ve finished a Navy career, destroyed my marriage, and now witness a mother passing through the slow burn of Alzheimer’s. She was the very person that introduced me to Morse, and now no longer recognizes or can follow them. I mean no disrespect in observing that…although I’m blessed to not yet see COVID in what’s left of my family, I wish you and I were never thrust into the same unwilling “club” of experience with dementia / Alzheimer’s.

    Very Respectfully,

    1. Hello Scott. I am so sorry to read of your mother having to experience alzheimers. My father had alzheimers and sadly died from its effects some 15 years ago. I wouldn’t wish alzheimers on my worst enemy. I wish you all the best and hope my website, in some small way, will give you some comfort and respite from your current situation. Take care.

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