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by Murielle Wenger

original French

Basically, she was delighted with the picture Simenon had drawn of her, as a good "granny", always at her stove, always polishing, always pampering her big baby of a husband. (Les mémoires de Maigret)

Preamble

It's time, I think, to finally dedicate a little study to this character who can't be ignored...

Indeed, what would Jules be without Louise? A Chief Inspector of the police, maybe not too bad, but certainly a man incomplete...

Mᵐᵉ Maigret is the guardian of the haven of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, one of the two poles between which Maigret navigates, the other being, of course, the Quai des Orfèvres. On the one side, his work is a confrontation with worlds not always easy to understand... on the other, some simple pleasures, sensory and basic, odors of simmering dishes, the tranquility of a cozy home, the little attentions of a loving spouse...

Mᵐᵉ Maigret appears at the beginning of the corpus – she is in fact present in Pietr le Letton, first by three allusions to her made by her husband, then an appearance "in person" in the last chapter. We could say that, from this novel, the tone was set. The first mention of her character is in the third chapter. Maigret has returned in the middle of the night to his office at the Quai des Orfèvres. After an exchange with Torrence about the latest developments on the case in progress, the Chief Inspector decides to take the train to Fécamp, and says,

"It's not worth going home and waking my wife."
You might think there was a certain lightness, even cynicism, on the part of the husband, but there was none. The life of the couple is set up in a way that Mᵐᵉ Maigret knows that she is there to wait for her husband, to be present, preferably with a good meal on the fire, in case he returns unexpectedly. Since he forgets (more or less unconsciously...) to call to say where he is, she's the one to get the information. Which is the case for the second the second appearance of her character, in the sixth chapter. Maigret, back from Fécamp, returns to the Quai (and not to his apartment, we note) and asks (all the same!),
"My wife hasn't called?"
"This morning. We told her you were out on a case..."

She was used to it. He knew that he could return home and that she'd be content to welcome him, stirring her pots on the stove and filling a plate with some fragrant stew. She might ask, but only after he was at the table, thinking, chin between his hands...
"Everything okay?..."
At noon or five o'clock, he'd found his meal ready all the same."
The third mention, in Chapter 11, takes up the same idea. While Maigret was keeping watch at the Majestic, and a patron had said of him, "Will you look at that!", the commissioner had answered (to himself),
"Why, yes! 'That', was a policeman, who was trying to stop major criminals from continuing their exploits, and who was determined to avenge a colleague who'd been murdered in this very hotel! 'That', was a man who wasn't dressed by English tailors ... and whose wife, for the past three days, had prepared his meals in vain, resignedly, without knowing anything."
We've sketched the essentials of the function of Mᵐᵉ Maigret's character (especially as it appears in the beginning of the corpus – we'll see that later on that it will be enriched, as, in parallel, that of the Chief Inspector is enriched and refined), a Penelope, patiently awaiting her husband, reheating for as long as it takes the meal she'd prepared, and worrying about him without pushing, without asking the details of his work.

That's how we find her in the last chapter, when Maigret finally comes home, with an additional component... in addition to doing the cooking, she also becomes a nurse. The Chief Inspector, having finished his case, finally decides to take care of his wound, and to rest. As for Mᵐᵉ Maigret,

she scurried around the apartment, content, pretending to grumble, for appearances sake, stirring whatever was in the pot, moving buckets of water, opening and closing the windows, checking from time to time...
"A pipe?..."
A little before that, and not without a preliminary treating of the nurses to a glass of plum brandy from Alsace, and asking two dependable questions of her husband... "Did they hurt you" and "Can you eat?", did she permit herself to question him about the conclusion of his case, knowing full well that she'd get but a minimum of information. But that would be enough for her...
Mᵐᵉ Maigret shrugged her shoulders.
"It's really useless being the wife of an officer of the Police Judiciaire!"
But she said it with a smile.
In the course of our analysis, we will once more search the corpus to find Mᵐᵉ Maigret in the aspects we have just mentioned, and to see how her character evolves across the string of novels.

Statistical Analysis

First of all, let's begin with a little statistical study.

Mᵐᵉ Maigret is present (ranging from a simple mention in the text to a character integrated into the action) in 69 novels and 18 stories, a large majority of the texts in the corpus. She is missing from five novels of the Fayard period (PRO, JAU, HOL; POR, FIA) and one from the Gallimard period (CAD), but not from a single novel of the Presses de la Cité era.

I'll take advantage of this occasion to correct an error found in Simenon studies for a number of years, in fact probably since the appearance of Francis Lacassin's book, Simenon et la vraie naissance de Maigret [Simenon and the true birth of Maigret]. In this excellent work, Lacassin does a fine analysis of the character Mᵐᵉ Maigret, whose presence in the corpus he details...

A significant detail, in the 19 Fayard Maigrets, Mᵐᵉ Maigret doesn't appear in person until the ninth volume (Au rendez-vous des Terres-Neuvas [REN]). She manifests herself – by postcards – in the 11th (La guinguettte à deux sous [GUI]), cares for her husband's wound in the 15th (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]) and shares his retirment a Meung-sur-Loire, in the 19th, Maigret [MAI].

In the cases (six novels, 19 stories) of the Gallimard period, she plays a role in six, of which one is by postcard, and two others very actively (L'amoureux de Mᵐᵉ Maigret [amo], Tempête sur la Manche [man]).

In the Presses de la Cité publications, she is present in the first volume (Maigret se fâche [FAC]). After that it is easier to note the stories in which she does not appear, even minimally... a postcard sent to or from her husband, a telephone conversation or a simple 'good evening' addressed to him when he returns home in the last pages of the volume. Mᵐᵉ Maigret is completely missing, not even mentioned, in three of her husband's 58 cases, Maigret et la vielle dame [DAM], Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], and a story – written moreover in 1939 – Vente à la bougie [ven].

We hesitate to contradict this erudite Simenon scholar, Lacassin, and yet we must make some corrections to this part of the author's text...

  1. Mᵐᵉ Maigret appears in person, as stated above, from the first novel of the Fayard period. While it's true that she is absent from the second (in the order of writing), Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], she reappears in the third, in the final chapter of M. Gallet, décédé [GAL], when she greets her husband on his return from Sancerre. We'll find her again in this Fayard period, as we'll see below.

  2. For the texts of the Gallimard period, she is present (or at least mentioned) in five novels and 10 stories.

  3. For the text of the Presses de la Cité period, she is present in all the novels, missing in but a single story, Vente à la bougie [ven], as Lacassin wrote. But there is actually a question about her in Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]. If she is not present in the investigation, she is in fact mentioned five times, of which the second is worth retaining, for it illustrates well the relationship which exists within the couple. Maigret, just arrived at Etretat, after going to look at the sea, returns to his hotel...
    The odor of the hotel was so familiar to him that he suddenly missed Mᵐᵉ Maigret, for it was always when he was with her that he smelled it.
    What a shame then, that this passage went unnoticed by Lacassin, and all the more that it continued to escape all those who went on to write about Mᵐᵉ Maigret. Not only does this error continue to be propagated on diverse sites on the web, but it is still found in the otherwise magnificent work, published this year following the Simenon exposition Simenon at the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts of Brussels, Georges Simenon, parcours d'un écrivain belge [Itinerary of a Belgian writer].

    As for Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], Mᵐᵉ Maigret appears in it twice. The first time, when Maigret returns home for dinner after the discovery of the death of the countess. When he decides to go out again (to go to Picratt's), Mᵐᵉ Maigret advises him to "keep warm". The second time, this one too, merits mention. The morning after the evening at Picratt's, Maigret is awakened – as usual – by his wife, who brings him a cup of coffee. With "a perky air", Mᵐᵉ Maigret opens the curtains, "like someone preparing a delightful surprise". In fact, she wanted to show her husband, who in certain areas remained a big child, that it was snowing...

Let's return to our statistics...

Having established the presence of Mᵐᵉ Maigret in the novels, as we've done above, it is interesting to concentrate on the frequency and form of this presence. To do so, we've considered, on the one hand, the number of chapters by novel where the character appears, and on the other hand, whether it's a case of a simple mention or an active presence in the framework of the text. Here are the results...

  • If we examine the number of chapters by novel, wherein Mᵐᵉ Maigret appears, we find, across the entire corpus, an average of 56%, about half the chapters. For the Fayard period, the average is 32%, about a third of the chapters. For Gallimard, the average is 44%, and for the Presses de la Cité period, 65%. So there is a marked increase in her presence across the corpus. Note however that Mᵐᵉ Maigret was already very much present in two novels of the Fayard period (REN and FOU), where she accompanied her husband to the location of an investigation, something rather rare, since in most of the novels where she is very present, it's when the cases take place in Paris, and in which Maigret finds her when returning home from work. When Maigret goes outside of Paris, it's usually alone (with the exception of Maigret en vacances [VAC] et Maigret à Vichy [VIC], for obvious reasons).

  • Another interesting point to examine is the location in the novel where Mᵐᵉ Maigret appears most frequently. In general, we note that, for the first two periods, Mᵐᵉ Maigret is generally present at the end of the novel. It's there that her husband finds her at the end of a case, a way for Maigret to "take stock", to draw a conclusion, to find again the haven of his home – the rest of the warrior, in a way... In contrast, for the Presses de la Cité period, if we also find this component, it's balanced by another. Mᵐᵉ Maigret is present in 90% of the first chapters of this period. We see more and more, as we advance through the corpus, novels opening on a familiar and familial scene, where Maigret is breakfasting with his wife before leaving for work... when he hasn't been awakened by a phone call in the middle of the night, and Mᵐᵉ Maigret gets him a cup of coffee and a warm scarf before he escapes into his nocturnal investigation...

  • If we consider now the chapters in which Mᵐᵉ Maigret appears, whether simply mentioned, or playing an active role, we see that, in general, of the 346 wherein we find her, in 84 she is merely mentioned, some 24% of the cases, showing the importance of her role...; for the Fayard period, there are 14 wherein she is simply mentioned, out of the 51 in which her name appears, some 27% of the cases. For the Gallimard period, she is mentioned in 13 chapters of the 23 concerned, some 57%, and for the Presses de la Cité period, she is mentioned in 58 chapters of 272 concerned, some 21% of the cases. We note then that her presence in the Fayard period is fairly important (strongly involved in two novels, as stated above, she is primarily active at the end of the novel in the other cases). In the Gallimard period, she is most often absent (which is expected since two novels of this period are investigations outside of Paris (JUG and CAD). And for the "Parisian" novels, Maigret is content with brief visits to his home, preoccupied with the Misses Cécile or Félicie... As for the novels of the Presses de la Cité period, we note there the increasingly more important role played by Mᵐᵉ Maigret – the scenes where the Chief Inspector returns home for dinner, to sleep, and in a way, to "decompress", as we say today, are more and more numerous. Mᵐᵉ Maigret is not merely "the lady who waits by her stove" (even if she continues to stir the invigorating dishes which her husband needs get back in balance), but she becomes more and more of a confidante, with whom Maigret shares more than a simple meal...

Physical and psychological aspects

Let's concern ourselves first with the description of the character, as conceived by Simenon.

Mᵐᵉ Maigret – no more so than her husband, however – isn't described in detail by the author. If Maigret is hardly more than a silhouette – overcoat and hat – leaving the reader to construct his own representation, and actors to embody him by slipping into his image, Mᵐᵉ Maigret is also evoked in bold strokes, sketched, rather than described.

We know that she wears curlers at night (a typical portrait of a homemaker in the years between 30 and 50!), that she hardly wears make-up, just using a little powder, wearing a "slightly sweet perfume" for special occasions (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]).

She's happy wearing an apron when she's at home, but also when she's installed with her husband at a hotel ("Even when staying at a hotel, she wore an apron to feel a little more at home, as she said." in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]). These are cotton aprons, blue. To go out, she wears a hat. "a green hat with a feather" (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), "a straw hat" (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), "a little white hat" (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), and wears white gloves. She wears dresses, of course (and not slacks), like the women of her day. By preference, floral patterns ("She wore a cotton dress with little flowers she liked when she stayed in the apartment, and that gave to the meal an air of heightened intimacy ." in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), light cotton in summer, wool in winter. She was happy in pink... "Mᵐᵉ Maigret wore a pink floral dress" (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), "Mᵐᵉ Maigret appeared, in a pink suit" (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), but also in blue - She was, moreover, wearing a pale blue dress when Maigret met her for the first time (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]).

Physically, she is rather plump, probably blonde (a slightly stout Alsatian), "plump" (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), her hands were "a little pudgy" (Le témoignage de l'enfant de chœur [cho]). To some she seemed "a chubby grandma" (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]). Since her youth she'd always had the same build, "She was a big girl, fresh, like you see in cake shops, or behind the marble counters at dairies, a big girl, full of vitality" (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), "a young girl, slightly chubby, her face very fresh, and in her eyes, a sparkle that you didn't see in those of her friends" (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]).

One of the things Maigret valued most about her was that she was cheerful, even merry. He loved to find her in the morning, "smelling fresh and soapy" (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), "all fresh, coiffed, wearing a pale apron" (Un Noël de Maigret [noe]), "already fresh and dressed, smelling of soap" (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]); "already fresh and clean in a pale blue smock" (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]), "already fresh and alert in a flowered housecoat" (Maigret hésite [HES]).

On the family side, Mᵐᵉ Maigret is originally from Alsace, where the couple sometimes spends their vacations. "Mᵐᵉ Maigret, over in Alsace, was with her family, helping to make preserves and plum brandy." (Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN]); "he had to drive Mᵐᵉ Maigret to Alsace, to her sister's, where, like every year, she would spend a month" (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]). So Mᵐᵉ Maigret had a sister... at least... (see here et here), but also a certain number of cousins, one of whom lives in Nancy (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), and eleven aunts, one living in Quimper (L'improbable Monsieur Owen [owe]). Mᵐᵉ Maigret also has family on the Isle of Ré (Ceux du Grand-Café [ceu]). A good part of the Alsatian branch worked for the Highways department (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]).

There's a drama in the history of the Maigret couple... they'd lost a little daughter, either at birth, or a little afterwards. We learn nothing further from the few allusions in the corpus. We know however, that that's what provokes the "nostalgia of paternity" in Maigret, nostalgia which he compensates for in his relationship with his inspectors. As for Mᵐᵉ Maigret, her "great sorrow" at not having children, she overcomes by giving her affection to her husband, whom she "coddles" and watches over with maternal care...

Portrait of a loving wife

For this part of our analysis, we'll consider the essential elements of the character as they appeared at the beginning, as we've seen above, and we'll examine how the character is described and evolved through the corpus, considering the different "angles" from which Mᵐᵉ Maigret is viewed.

a) Penelope's waiting, and the return of Ulysses

As mentioned above, the first image that Simenon shows us of Mᵐᵉ Maigret is that of a spouse at home, watching her pots, awaiting the return of the valorous warrior... A wait long, and often fruitless, since the Chief Inspector sometimes forgets to call to advise her that he won't be back ("Mᵐᵉ Maigret, once more, would wait before the two place settings set out on the round table. She was really used to it! And it hadn't helped to install a telephone... Maigret would forget to call." in Cécile est morte [CEC]), or he'd be reminded by the office boy or an inspector... We note all the same, that over time, his character becomes more refined, a certain delicacy appears, and the phone calls become more frequent (see this study).

Like Penelope, Mᵐᵉ Maigret also practices the "needle arts". If she doesn't weave, she sews, embroiders, knits... works of patience which help "pass the time" waiting for her husband to return... Like Penelope as well, she welcomes her champion's return without recrimination, but with concern. A concern shown with a few simple questions, but which reflects none the less the tenderness she feels for her husband. And these questions always revolve around the same themes, those already present at the beginning of the corpus... physical and emotional health, appetite, and the progress of the case...

"You look like you've just come from a funeral!" remarked Mᵐᵉ Maigret when he entered his home on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir... Have you eaten, at least?" (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL])

Maigret returned home to the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir.
His wife said simply, "You look tired!"
(La tête d'un homme [TET])

"We he came to bed, Mᵐᵉ Maigret awoke just enough to murmur half-consciously, "Have you eaten, at least?" (L'ombre chinoise [OMB])

"You don't look very happy... You don't look so well... maybe you're coming down with a cold." (ibid)

"Did you work everything out? ... Did you at least eat well, in Givet? ... Are you hungry?" (Chez les Flamands [FLA])

"Finally!... There you are, Maigret!... I was wondering... I made the fricandeau, like you asked me on the phone..." (Signé Picpus [SIG])

"His wife was waiting for him on the landing.
"What's wrong?" asked Mᵐᵉ Maigret. "You look like..."
"Like I've caught a cold, that's all, and like I want to lie down with a hot toddy and a couple of aspirins."
"You're not going to eat?" (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG])

"Not too tired? Did you sleep a little?" (Maigret a peur [PEU])

As usual, Mᵐᵉ Maigret opened the door of the apartment before he turned the knob. She didn't mention that he was late. Dinner was ready.
"You haven't caught cold?" (Maigret se trompe [TRO])

Even when she was deeply asleep, he couldn't climb the stairs without her hearing. ...
"You're not hungry?"
"No."
"Come quickly to bed. A cup of coffee?" (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU])

"Tired?" asked Mᵐᵉ Maigret on opening the door to their apartment at the precise moment that her husband reached the landing.
"It was hot."
"Still nothing?" ...
"You have a lead?" ...
"Have you eaten?" (Maigret tend un piège [TEN])

She was asleep as he started to undress in the semi-darkness ... a voice from the bed asked,
"Is it late?"
"I don't know. Maybe 1:30..."
"You haven't caught cold?"
"No."
"You don't want me to make you some herb tea?" (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR])

He climbed the stairs heavily, mulling over vague thoughts, and he found the door opened by Mᵐᵉ Maigret in her night dress.
"Not too tired?" (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA])

"Is that you?"
It must have been hundreds, if not thousands of times that she'd asked that question in a sluggish voice when he'd returned in the middle of the night, that she'd fumbled to light the lamp on the night table, then gotten up, in her nightgown, darting a glance at her husband to see what kind of mood he was in. ...
"You're not hungry? Should I make you something?" (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN])

"You weren't too hot?" fretted Mᵐᵉ Maigret. "I hope you took time for lunch and dinner, and that this time you didn't just live on sandwiches?" (La patience de Maigret [PAT])

As he climbed the last flight of stairs, the door opened.
"You haven't caught cold?"
"I don't think so..."
"I've got water boiling to make you a hot toddy..." (Maigret et le tueur)

It was almost midnight when he started up the stairs, and he saw the door of their apartment ajar, his wife awaiting him on the landing. ...
"You haven't caught cold?" (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN])

He returned home by taxi.
"I wondered if you'd be back for dinner." ...
"I'm not hungry..."
"The table is set and you'll eat all the same..." (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU])

Mᵐᵉ Maigret came to greet her husband at the door and looked at him with a frown.
"Not too tired?"
"Very tired."
"Making progress?"
"Maybe..." (Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA])

And when sometimes Maigret just stopped at home briefly, in the middle of a case, though it was something his wife hardly appreciated, she was careful to say nothing...

Mᵐᵉ Maigret sighed, but said nothing, when, at 7:00 in the morning, her husband had left her after swallowing down his coffee without even noticing that it was steaming hot. (La tête d'un homme [TET])

While he ate his lunch, at the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, his wife couldn't get a word out of him. ... She understood from his mood that it would be pointless to ask what time he'd be home. (Cécile est morte [CEC])

That gave him time to stop at the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, change, even shave, and to swallow some breakfast. Mᵐᵉ Maigret was careful not to ask him any questions. (Le revolver de Maigret [REV])

At dinner, Mᵐᵉ Maigret could tell from his face that it would be best not to ask any questions. He spent the evening reading an international police magazine, and at 10:00, went to bed.
"You have a lot of work?"
They were almost asleep. She'd kept the question on the tip of her tongue all night.
"Not much, but nasty." (Maigret chez le ministre [MIN])

"I'm going out tonight..." he announced to his wife in a gruff voice.
She knew that it would be best not to ask for details. ...
"I don't know what time I'll be back... I'm going to Montmartre, the nightclubs..."
You would have said that he was trying to make her jealous, and that he was disappointed to see her smile. (La colère de Maigret [COL])

He was still 200 yards from home ... She understood immediately that things weren't going well with his case, and not to ask any questions. (Maigret et le tueur [TUE])

Furthermore, she knew her husband so well that she really didn't need to ask him many questions...

"When I came home, my wife had no more than to look at me, without asking anything, to know how everything was. ... and she knew the meaning of my bad moods, my certain way of sitting down, when I came home at night, of filling my plate, and she didn't push." (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM])

She could detect the slightest change in his mood and, while she didn't ask him any direct questions, she tried none the less to discern what was bothering him. (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR])

Mᵐᵉ Maigret didn't ask him any questions. She sensed vaguely that he had returned from far away, that he needed to get used to everyday life once more, to rub shoulders with people who made him comfortable. (Maigret tend un piège [TEN])

He ate face-to-face with his wife, to whom he hadn't said a word, and who, knowing his moods, was careful not to ask him any questions. (Une confidence de Maigret [CON])

"I have a big day ahead of me, responsibilities." That, she had already guessed the night before, when he'd come home, but she'd been careful not to ask him anything." (La patience de Maigret [PAT])

When the Chief Inspector got home ... Mᵐᵉ Maigret needed but a glance to gauge the state of his spirits. (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH])

He was late, but she made no reproach, satisfied to note that he didn't seem quite the same as that morning. She knew that face, both sullen and pensive. (Maigret à Vichy [VIC])

They both smiled, but she had nonetheless guessed the state of his spirits. (Maigret hésite [HES])

When he got home, he didn't try to hide his bad mood. With Mᵐᵉ Maigret, it was, moreover, impossible." (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF])

He came home for dinner, and Mᵐᵉ Maigret, having seen his scowling face, avoided asking him any questions. (La folle de Maigret [FOL])

Mᵐᵉ Maigret knew immediately that he was preoccupied, and pretended not to notice. (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU])

Mᵐᵉ Maigret gave him the anxious look she always had when her husband was leading a difficult investigation. She wasn't surprised by his silence, his grumpy air. (Maigret et monsieur Charles [SEU]).

b) The cook

Mᵐᵉ Maigret is a good cook, which by now almost goes without saying... To the extent that there's even been a book published of Mᵐᵉ Maigret's recipes. Without going into the details (for that, you should see Courtine's book...), we'll go through the corpus to enumerate some of the dishes Louise prepares for her Jules.

From the simple "ragoût odorant" [fragrant stew] at the beginning of the corpus (see the extract from Pietr le Letton [LET] cited above), to the everyday "fricot sur le feu" [stovetop stew] mentioned in La nuit du carrefour [NUI], we move little by little to more precise notations, like the quiches, which scent the whole house in Chez les Flamands [FLA], or the various "en-cas pour homme alité" [snacks for the bedridden] that Mᵐᵉ Maigret makes in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]: "un bon bouillon de poule" [a good chicken soup], a "crème au citron [lemon cream], which was a pure masterpiece", and some less attractive herbal teas, but which Maigret swallows in exchange for a few puffs of his pipe. Then, in Liberty Bar [LIB],

"Would you like to me to make a 'morue à la crème' [cod with cream]?"
"You can't imagine how much!"
And we find again the same degree of enthusiasm from the Chief Inspector for the dishes prepared by his wife in Maigret [MAI]:
"What kind of soup have you made?" he shouted, seating himself on a crate."
"Tomato."
"All right!"
It sometimes happens that, in spite of the culinary efforts of Mᵐᵉ Maigret, the Chief Inspector becomes so wrapped up in his case that he can't do justice to the dishes served...
He rested his elbows on the table, crumbled the bread onto the tablecloth, chewed noisily, and all that was a bad sign. ... Had he even noticed that he was eating a creamy caramel custard? (Cécile est morte [CEC])
Happily, this was not the rule, and in general, Maigret had rather a tendency to appreciate his wife's cuisine...
"...and God knows Mᵐᵉ Maigret knew how to simmer a stew!" (Maigret à New York [NEW]).
And how could we not share his opinion, reading a few examples...
boiled chicken, "with a fine red carrot, a fat onion and a bunch of parsley", which unfortunately would burn in the pot ... (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]),

coq au vin with Alsatian plum brandy (Une confidence de Maigret [CON]),

macaroni and cheese, "filled with finely diced ham, and sometimes, a truffle cut even finer" (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]),

Alsatian sauerkraut with pickled pork, especially 'tasty'" (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]),

tarragon chicken topped with asparagus tips (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]),

baked mackerel, slow cooked in white wine, with plenty of mustard (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]),

a roast with heads of celery purée (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]),

and "a pretty pink leg of lamb, with just a drop of blood dripping near the bone" (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]).

c) the housewife

Mᵐᵉ Maigret not only has the talents of a cook, she's also a woman who likes to care for her home, maintains the cleanliness of her household, as we see her "shaking a rug where a nurse had left footprints" in Pietr le Letton [LET], "airing out the sheets" of the unmade bed in La nuit du carrefour [NUI], "scouring the brass" in Cécile est morte [CEC], "waxing the floor" in Maigret se défend [DEF], and "ironing" in Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN].

We have to view these images, not as "compulsive cleanliness", but rather the manifestation of Mᵐᵉ Maigret's feeling uncomfortable in a which she has succeeded in fashioning into her image, reflecting her "inner cleanliness", a certain serenity, which is certainly one of her character traits which pleases her husband the most, even from the beginning of their relationship. We recall their first meeting (see Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]), and how Louise knew how to put young Jules at ease in the episode of the petits fours... Beneath her "sweet grandma" exterior, we feel a certain force in this woman, a will which doesn't manifest itself in a vehement manner, but by acts which fit her personality... In Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN], no sooner had the couple settled into the hotel, then Mᵐᵉ Maigret began by "rearranging the room to her liking". In Le fou de Bergerac [FOU],

...she upset the kitchen. She gave recipes to the chef, and made copies for him to file.
If the gentleness of her character is real, it doesn't stop her from wanting to run her household as she wishes, to be the sole mistress of her home...
She didn't want a maid and was happy with a cleaning lady in the morning for the heavy work (L'amoureux de Madame Maigret [amo]).

She allowed a cleaning lady, certain days of the week, but only for the heavy work, and even then she often redid it after her." (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]).

Moreover, when her husband had the misfortune to propose that they get a maid, because he was afraid of her wearing herself out, she was hardly appreciative.
In her mind, it was a little as if he wanted to take away one of her prerogatives, one that she held dear to her heart." (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]).

d) the nurse

Kitchen and household, the range of talents of Mᵐᵉ Maigret doesn't stop there. She also combines a gift for nursing, which, given what we've already seen of her, isn't surprising... From the beginning of the corpus, she will care for her husband's wounds, as we have seen above. We find her again in the nurse's role in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU], as a nurse with all the qualities... calm, skillful, patient, caring...

Mᵐᵉ Maigret accepted the situation as she accepted everything, without surprise, without excitement. She'd been in the room for an hour, and it had already become her room, for she'd brought all her little things, her personal touch.
Similarly in Le témoignage de l'enfant de chœur [cho]...
Resignedly, knowing from experience that it was useless to argue with her big old husband.
Her husband, moreover, appreciated his wife in this role, and he would sometimes "cheat" with a bad cold, pretending that it was the flu, since then he could lead his investigation while staying in his room, which sometimes turned out to be useful...
"Let's say that here, at home, with my wife to care for me, I feel more relaxed thinking about the case and leading the investigation." (Maigret et son mort [MOR]).

He had a fever again, not high. ... Mᵐᵉ Maigret took advantage of the situation to pamper him, and each time she did something for him, he'd pretend to grumble. (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]).
And that goes far back into the history of the couple...
She nursed him tenderly. You could say she coddled him. However, he had the impression that she wasn't fooled. ... She loved to make him herb teas, poultices, to make broth and eggs with milk. And she liked to carefully close the curtains and walk on tiptoes, sometimes opening the door to see if he were asleep." (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]).

e) the collaborator

A less evident facet of Mᵐᵉ Maigret is her role in her husband's work. Even if, in general, and especially at the beginning of the corpus, he had kept her outside of his investigations, over the course of time, he would sometimes share certain details, taking her as confidante to his moods. Further along in the corpus, the more Maigret will speak of the progress of his case with his wife, which goes along with the fact that we see him passing more time at the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. The fact remains nonetheless that there are times when she is led to play a more important role in the case (see for example, L'amie de Madame Maigret, L'amoureux de Madame Maigret [MME], Le fou de Bergerac [FOU], Maigret et le clochard [CLO], Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]). As stated above, she questions her husband, even if she doesn't always get an answer. Nonetheless, a simple question on her part can sometimes give her husband the chance to draw a conclusion to his investigation, in order to "move on"...

Thus, in Pietr le Letton [LET], At Maigret's return, at the end of the novel, to his home, once cared for and installed in his bed, his wife asks about Anna Gorskine. If Maigret doesn't give her any detaisl, he nevertheless formulates a sort of conclusion, in the form of a sentence, "Life is so complicated, you see...". In Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN], these are Mᵐᵉ Maigret's questions which allow her husband to express what he feels about Le Clinche's situation. Maigret says, "Nineteen years old... A kid... I'm really afraid that he'll just become a bird for the cat..." And Mᵐᵉ Maigret asks, "Why?... Isn't he innocent?..." And Maigret answers, "He probably didn't kill... No!... I'd bet on it... But I'm afraid he'll be lost all the same...". In Liberty Bar, also at the end of the novel, on Maigret's return home, his wife asks him, "What was it about, this affair?" And Maigret answers "A love story!". And the rest of the dialogue follows the same pattern. Mᵐᵉ Maigret asks questions about the case, and her husband (for once!) explains. In Maigret a peur [PEU], again at the end of the novel, when Maigret returns from Fontenay, his wife asks,

"Are you involved in this case?"
"It's over."
"What was it about?"
"Someone who couldn't handle losing."
"I don't understand."
"It doesn't matter. There are some people who, rather than tumble down the hill, are capable of anything."
"I'm sure you're right," she murmured philosophically.
In Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR], when the Chief Inspector is reading a psychiatric work, his wife asks, "You have a difficult case?" ... He's content to shrug his shoulders and grumble, "A story of madmen!". In La folle de Maigret [FOL], when the Chief Inspector returns home from his office, "Mᵐᵉ Maigret opened the door as soon as he reached the landing, as always.
"You seem preoccupied."
"Quite. I'm struggling with an affair about which I don't understand a thing.
",
and later in the dialogue, Mᵐᵉ Maigret asks questions about the murdered old woman.

f) the spouse

Alongside all these "functions", Mᵐᵉ Maigret has also the role of spouse, that is, the second part of what forms a couple. The relationship between the two characters is strong, even if it's not manifested by grand demonstrations, nor great discourse. Some small affectionate gestures, the exchange of simple words, but which reflect no less the deep tenderness which unites the couple...

It was a serious kiss, deep, which he placed on the brow of his wife, already asleep. (Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN])

And he kissed her hand, with a tenderness hidden by playfulness." (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU])

They bickered quietly, after twenty years of marriage, savoring the peace of their home. (L'amoureux de Madame Maigret [amo])

they headed towards home, Mᵐᵉ Maigret's hand on the arm of her husband. (Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA])

They usually walked slowly, arm in arm." (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG])

A quarter of an hour later, in the darkness of the street, Mᵐᵉ Maigret took her husband's arm. (Le revolver de Maigret [REV])

Meanwhile, at his side, she continued to sew, occasionally saying something unimportant to fill the silence. Whether he answered or not, or if he merely grunted, it was more intimate." (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU])

There were rituals that had taken years to establish, and to which he held more than he would have liked to admit. ... his wife had a special gesture of taking his wet umbrella from his hands at the same time as tilting her head to kiss him on the cheek. (Maigret chez le ministre [MIN])

Here too, the Maigrets would exchange glances. They never talked much when it was just the two of them. And in the looks which they exchanged today, for example, there was nostalgia and acknowledgment. (Maigret s'amuse [AMU])

At some point, Mᵐᵉ Maigret slipped her hand into his, as if she understood, and when they left with the crowd, she didn't ask any questions, made no comment." (ibid.)

He kissed her, came back to tap her on the cheek as whisper, 'Never mind. I think I got up on the wrong side of the bed..." (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR])

At intermission he bought some candy for his wife, for, for almost as long as Mᵐᵉ Maigret's gesture for him to take her arm, it was a tradition. (ibid.)

He slid under the warm sheets, turned out the light, and found in the darkness, without fumbling, his wife's lips. (ibid.)

That was part of the tradition. Mᵐᵉ Maigret automatically took her husband's arm, and, on the empty sidewalk, they walked slowly into the quiet of the night. (Une confidence de Maigret [CON])

This dinner was very nice though, full of intimacy, of subtle understanding between him and his wife. (Maigret et le voleur paresseux [VOL])

Mᵐᵉ Maigret headed to the kitchen to prepare coffee and Maigret gave her a knowing wink. (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA])

Arm in arm they headed towards the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, and they were feeling fine, with no need for conversation." (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI])

It was a soft, quiet evening, with long silences between the sentences, which didn't prevent them from feeling very close to each other. (Maigret et le clochard [CLO])

On the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, a fat pink-tinted moon watched them walk, arm in arm, towards their home. (Maigret se défend [DEF])

"Good-night," she said to him, bringing her face close to his. He kissed her, as he'd done for so many years, and whispered, "Good-night"... (Maigret et le tueur [TUE])

It was one of his most certain pleasures. After several steps, Mᵐᵉ Maigret hooked her arm into his, and they walked slowly, stopping sometimes to look at a shop window. They didn't have a continued conversation, speaking of one thing and another, of the face of a passer-by, a dress, the last letter from her sister-in-law... (ibid.)

They walked to walk, for the pleasure of being together, but they had nothing in particular to say. They looked at the same people they met, the same displays, and, from time to time, one or the other would remark on something they were thinking. (La folle de Maigret [FOL])

It didn't matter what they did. Even when they were content to walk side by side the length of the sidewalks, they were never bored. (ibid.)

He kissed his wife. She accompanied him to the door and opened it for him. Leaning on the railing, she watched him descend, and he gave her a little wave of the hand. (Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA]). ).

Maigret, moreover, even if he doesn't make a show of it, knows well that he needs the presence of his wife to exist fully...
Maigret didn't like staying in Paris without his wife. He ate, without appetite, in the first restaurant he came to, and he'd sometimes stay in a hotel to avoid going home. (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI])

In fact, in a normal time, what would he talk about with his wife when he was with her? ... Nothing, really. Then why, all day long, did he miss her so much? (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC])

She didn't call him "sweetheart" and he didn't call her "dearest". What purpose would it have served, since they felt like they were in some sense the same person? (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN])

He had rarely wanted so much to go home and see the tender and cheerful eyes of his wife. (Maigret se défend [DEF])

He watched her from the window, walking towards Rue Servan. He was happy to have a wife like her and he had on his lips a small smile of satisfaction. (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND])

He was a little agitated all the same, like each time he left his wife for more than a day. (ibid.).

This relationship between the couple, based on trust and complicity, was built from their first meeting. We can recall, in Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM], the "gaffe" of young Jules, consuming, to compose himself, the petits fours at the Highways Division party, and discovering nevertheless, a knowing look from one of the guests... "At that moment, in the darkness, I saw a face, the face of a young girl in blue, and on her face, a soft expression, reassuring, almost familiar. You would have said that she'd understood, that she was encouraging me." And thus appeared in Maigret's life this calm and serene being, the "resource person" with whom he deposits his worries and troubles, this character essential to his equilibrium...


translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, April 2012

original French

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