Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter)

(1913 – 1995)

Ellis Peters: The late great Ellis Peters with Derek Jacobi, who portrayed her awesome sleuth, Brother Cadfael on PBS. He's not my image of Cadfael, but he'll do.

Biographical Sketch

Edith Mary Pargeter, OBE, BEM (Horsehay/Telford, Shropshire, England, September 28, 1913 – Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, October 14, 1995), also known by her nom de plume Ellis Peters, was a British author of works in many categories, especially history and historical fiction, and was also honoured for her translations of Czech classics; she is probably best known for her murder mysteries, both historical and modern.

In 1947 Pargeter visited Czechoslovakia and became fascinated by the Czech language and culture. She became fluent in Czech and published award-winning translations of Czech poetry and prose into English.

She devoted the rest of her life to writing, both nonfiction and well-researched fiction. She never attended college but became a self-taught scholar in areas that interested her, especially Shropshire and Wales. Birmingham University eventually gave her an honorary master’s degree.

Pargeter wrote under a number of pseudonyms; it was under the name Ellis Peters that she wrote crime stories, especially the highly popular series of Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries, many of which were made into films for television. The Brother Cadfael Chronicles drew international attention to Shrewsbury and its history, and greatly increased tourism to the town.

Pargeter was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to Literature” in the 1994 New Year Honours. In 1993 she won the Cartier Diamond Dagger, an annual award given by the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain to authors who have made an outstanding lifetime’s contribution to the field of crime and mystery writing. The Mystery Writers of America gave her their Edgar Award in 1963 for the novel Death and the Joyful Woman.

Read more about Ellis Peters on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Titles of the British Empire
  • 1944: Medal of the British Empire
  • 1994: Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Dagger Awards
(CWA – Crime Writers’ Association, Great Britain)
  • 1980: Silver Dagger – “Monk’s Hood”
  • 1993: Diamond Dagger – Lifetime Achievement
Edgar (Allan Poe) Awards
(Mystery Writers of America)
  • 1963: Best Novel – “Death and the Joyful Woman”
Czechoslovak Society
for International Relations
  • 1968: Gold Medal



The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael
  • A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)
    (The First Chronicle)
  • One Corpse Too Many (1979)
    (The Second Chronicle)
  • Monk’s Hood (1980)
    (The Third Chronicle)
  • St. Peter’s Fair (1981)
    (The Fourth Chronicle)
  • The Leper of Saint Giles (1981)
    (The Fifth Chronicle)
  • The Virgin in the Ice (1982)
    (The Sixth Chronicle)
  • The Sanctuary Sparrow (1983)
    (The Seventh Chronicle)
  • The Devil’s Novice (1983)
    (The Eighth Chronicle)
  • The Dead Man’s Ransom (1984)
    (The Ninth Chronicle)
  • The Pilgrim of Hate (1984)
    (The Tenth Chronicle)
  • An Excellent Mystery (1985)
    (The Eleventh Chronicle)
  • The Raven in the Foregate (1986)
    (The Twelfth Chronicle)
  • The Rose Rent (1986)
    (The Thirteenth Chronicle)
  • The Hermit of Eyton Forest (1987)
    (The Fourteenth Chronicle)
  • The Confession of Brother Haluin (1988)
    (The Fifteenth Chronicle)
  • A Rare Benedictine:
  • The Advent of Brother Cadfael (1988)
    – Prequel; 3 short stories:

    • A Light on the Road to Woodstock
    • The Price of Light
    • Eye Witness
  • The Heretic’s Apprentice (1989)
    (The Sixteenth Chronicle)
  • The Potter’s Field (1989)
    (The Seventeenth Chronicle)
  • Summer of the Danes (1991)
    (The Eighteenth Chronicle)
  • The Holy Thief (1992)
    (The Nineteenth Chronicle)
  • Brother Cadfael’s Penance (1994)
    (The Twentieth Chronicle)
The Felse Family Mysteries
  • Fallen into the Pit (1951)
  • Death and the Joyful Woman (1962)
  • Flight of a Witch (1964)
  • A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (1965)
    A/K/A: Who Lies Here?
  • The Piper on the Mountain (1966)
  • Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Heart (1967)
  • The Grass-Widow’s Tale (1968)
  • The House of Green Turf (1969)
  • Morning Raga (1969)
  • The Knocker on Death’s Door (1970)
  • Death To the Landlords! (1972)
  • City of Gold and Shadows (1973)
  • Rainbow’s End (1978)
The Heaven Tree Trilogy
  • The Heaven Tree (1960)
  • The Green Branch (1962)
  • The Scarlet Seed (1963)
The Brothers of Gwynedd
  • Sunrise in the West (1974)
  • The Dragon at Noonday (1975)
  • The Hounds of Sunset (1976)
  • Afterglow and Nightfall (1977)
Writing as Edith Pargeter
  • Hortensius, Friend of Nero (1936)
  • Iron-Bound (1936)
  • The City Lies Foursquare (1939)
  • Ordinary People (1942)
  • She Goes to War (1942)
  • The Eighth Champion of Christendom (1945)
  • Reluctant Odyssey (1946)
  • Warfare Accomplished (1947)
  • The Fair Young Phoenix (1948)
  • By Firelight (1948)
  • Lost Children (1951)
  • Holiday with Violence (1952)
  • This Rough Magic (1953)
  • Most Loving Mere Folly (1953)
  • The Soldier at the Door (1954)
  • A Means of Grace (1956)
  • Death Mask (1959)
  • The Will and the Deed (1960)
  • Funeral of Figaro (1962)
  • A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury (1972)
  • The Horn of Roland (1974)
  • Never Pick Up Hitch-Hikers! (1976)
  • The Marriage of Meggotta (1979)
Writing as Jolyon Carr
  • Murder in the Dispensary (1938)
  • Freedom For Two (1939)
  • Masters of the Parachute Mail (1940)
  • Death Comes by Post (1940)
Writing as John Redfern
  • The Victim Needed a Nurse (1940)
Writing as Peter Benedict
  • Day Star (1937)
Short Story Collections
  • The Assize of the Dying (1958)
  • The Lily Hand and Other Stories (1965)
  • The Trinity Cat and Other Stories (2006)
    – Posthumous collection, edited by Martin Edwards and Sue Feder.
  • The Coast of Bohemia (1950)
  • The Thriller is a Novel (1973)
    Essay, in: Techniques of Novel-Writing.
  • Shropshire (1992)
    – With Roy Morgan.
  • Strongholds and Sanctuaries (1993)
    – With Roy Morgan.
  • Tales of the Little Quarter (1957)
    (Povidky Malostranké (1878) by Jan Neruda)
  • The Sorrowful and Heroic Life of John Amos Comenius (1958)
    (Johan Amos Comenius (1958) by František Kozík)
  • A Handful of Linden Leaves; an Anthology of Czech Poetry (1958)
  • Don Juan (1958)
    – By Josef Toman.
  • The Abortionists (1961)
    – By Jiři Valja.
  • Granny (1962)
    (Babicka by Božena Nemcova; elsewhere also translated as Grandmother)
  • The Linden Tree (1962)
    – Anthology.
  • The Terezin Requiem (1963)
    (Terezínské Rekviem by Josef Bor)
  • Legends of Old Bohemia (1963)
    (Staré Povĕsti České by Alois Jirásek)
  • The Wolf Trap (1963)
    (Vlčí Jáma (1938) by Jarmila Glazarová; elsewhere also translated as The Trap Hole)
  • May (1965)
    (Máj (1836) by Karel Hynek Mácha)
  • The End of the Old Times (1965)
    (Konec Starých Časů (1934) by Vladislav Vančura)
  • A Close Watch on the Trains (1968)
    (Ostre Sledované Vlaky (1965) by Bohumil Hrabal)
  • Report on My Husband (1969)
    (Zprava o mem Muzi by Josefa Slanska)
  • A Ship Named Hope (1970)
    (Loď Jménem Nadĕje (1969) by Ivan Klíma)
  • Mozart in Prague (1970)
    (Mozart v Praze (1951) by Jaroslav Seifert)


A Selection of Quotes

A Rare Benedictine

“Brother Cadfael knew better than to be in a hurry, where souls were concerned. There was plenty of elbow-room in eternity.”

“If ever you do go back, what is it you want of Evesham?”
“Do I know? […] The silence, it might be … or the stillness. To have no more running to do … to have arrived, and have no more need to run. The appetite changes. Now I think it would be a beautiful thing to be still.”

A Morbid Taste for Bones

“Meet every man as you find him, for we’re all made the same under habit, robe or rags. Some better made than others, and some better cared for, but on the same pattern, all.”

“It’s a kind of arrogance to be so certain you’re past redemption.”

“God, nevertheless, required a little help from men, and what he mostly got was hindrance.”

One Corpse Too Many

“The trouble with me, he thought unhappily, is that I have been about the world long enough to know that God’s plans for us, however infallibly good, may not take the form we expect and demand.”

“So, wonder! I also wonder about you,” said Cadfael mildly. “Do you know any human creatures who are not strangers, one to another?”

Monk’s Hood

“Don’t reach for the halo too soon. You have plenty of time to enjoy yourself, even a little maliciously sometimes, before you settle down to being a saint.”

The Leper of Saint Giles

“I have always known that the best of the Saracens could out-Christian many of us Christians.”

Dead Man’s Ransom

“A man must be prepared to face life, as well as death, there’s no escape from either.”

“Once, I remember, Father Abbot said that our purpose is justice, and with God lies the privilege of mercy. But even God, when he intends mercy, needs tools to his hand.”

The Raven in the Foregate

“Bitter though it may be to many, Cadfael concluded, there is no substitute for truth, in this or any case.”

The Heretic’s Apprentice

“One century’s saint is the next century’s heretic … and one century’s heretic is the next century’s saint. It is as well to think long and calmly before affixing either name to any man.”

“What are wits for unless a man uses them?”

“They sell courage of a sort in the taverns. And another sort, though not for sale, a man can find in the confessional. Try the alehouses and the churches, Hugh. In either a man can be quiet and think.”

The Potter’s Field

“Every man has within him only one life and one nature … It behooves a man to look within himself and turn to the best dedication possible those endowments he has from his Maker. You do no wrong in questioning what once you held to be right for you, if now it has come to seem wrong. Put away all thought of being bound. We do not want you bound. No one who is not free can give freely.”

Brother Cadfael’s Penance

“The voices of cold reason were talking, as usual, to deaf ears.”

“In the end there is nothing to be done but to state clearly what has been done, without shame or regret, and say: Here I am, and this is what I am. Now deal with me as you see fit. That is your right. Mine is to stand by the act, and pay the price.
You do what you must do, and pay for it. So in the end all things are simple.”

Find more quotes by Ellis Peters on Goodreads.