Bibliography  Reference  Forum  Plots  Texts  Simenon  Gallery  Shopping  Film  Links

Postmistresses,
nurses,
parish priests,
lawyers,
postmen,
valets and butlers...

in Simenon's gallery of characters

by Murielle Wenger

Original French

A Maigret novel obviously doesn't exist without the presence of its hero. However, to exercise his talents, the Chief Inspector needs a foil; and thus appear the "second fiddles", victims, witnesses and suspects, whom Maigret confronts. Without forgetting, of course, Mme Maigret and his inspectors, who receive his affection.

However, that is not yet enough to give scale to the scene... add to these a host of extras, who will furnish the space, and allow the novel to come alive. It's Simenon's talent to offer us a gallery of secondary characters, who appear more or less fleetingly, but who are nonetheless necessary to the plot. Sometimes described in just a few words, sometimes in a few sentences, the brevity of their appearance detracts nothing from the force of their presence at the heart of the plot.

And so the reader finds a certain pleasure in discovering, in the course of the story, these sketched characters, while the compulsive Maigret-lover – like me! - increases their happiness by making a collection of these findings...

And so here, after the maids, concierges, housekeepers, judges and so on, a little review of some others of these secondary characters.

1. The Postmistresses

The telephone is a tool often required by Maigret. In a time when there were not yet any of the mobile devices which have made today's communications so banal, the police had to find other ways of getting in contact or finding information. In Paris, when he's working away from his office, the Chief Inspector often goes into a café to telephone - a good excuse to order at the same time a little white wine or a brandy - which may explain why Maigret never uses public telephone booths, which could already be found at his time in the streets of the capital.

In the cases he investigates outside of Paris, Maigret also finds the need to phone. When it's not from his hotel room, he naturally goes to the post office, where he meets the first of the characters examined in this study, the postmistresses. In the Maigrets, it's always a woman who takes care of the postal service and telephone, in the suburbs or the country.

Five postmistresses are described in some detail in the corpus:

  • In La maison du juge [JUG], Maigret only encounters the attendant via the telephone... situated in city hall, he will need the assistance of the young woman to find out some information for him, Polite and affable, he presents himself graciously, beginning with a sort of apology...

    "Hello, Mademoiselle. ... I'm at city hall, and I'm afraid I'll have to bother you somewhat frequently..."

    Later, greeting her amiably...

    "Then he turned the crank of the telephone, greeting the attendant with a pleasant 'Bonjour'".

    And finally allowing himself some more pleasantness...

    "Hello, Mademoiselle! Still another call, if you don't mind? ... Thanks so much... But of course, I know you're doing everything you can, and before I leave I'll bring you some chocolates. You prefer glazed chestnuts? I'll remember..."

    "It's me again, Mademoiselle... I'll have to double the quantity of those chestnuts..."

    "Hello, Mademoiselle... Yes, it's me, yes... My debt of chocolates... No, that's right, you prefer glazed chestnuts... My debt grows greater and greater"

  • In L''inspecteur cadavre [CAD], here is Mlle Rinquet, whom Maigret encounters for the first time when he has to calls the Nauds to let them know he won't be back for dinner. The post office is closed, but with the help of Louis, the Chief Inspector manages to get the door opened. Maigret gives his thanks,

    "What do I owe, Mademoiselle?... Thank you... Excuse me."

    Later, while Maigret is taking his nightly walk through the village with Louis, he notices a light across from the Groults. Louis explains that the attendant has insomnia, and that she reads novels till late in the night. Maigret, hearing the sound of Groult's voice, in discussion with Cavre, recognized the sound of the telephone crank. And thus he discovers that she listens in on conversations...

    "He saw her, petite, dressed in black, black hair, a face without age. She had the receiver in one hand, the plug in the other."

    Maigret had himself let into the post office, using the back door.

    "Don't worry, Mademoiselle...

    He was too broad and too heavy for the little kitchen fitting for the tiny postmistress surrounded with china trinkets, spun glass bought at a fairgrounds, embroidered doilies."

    The words create an image, and we see, thanks to the novelists skill, the scene as if we were there, the contrast between the heavy silhouette of the Chief Inspector and the frail woman...

    Maigret, who needs to know what Groult had said to Naud on the phone, threatens to denounce the postmistress, who relates the conversation. The phone rings again in the post office, and she responds...

    "She turned around, afraid, for the massive Maigret was right beside her, his hand extended, ready to grasp the receiver at the proper moment. ... She didn't dare resist the Chief Inspector, who authoritatively took the earphones and placed them over his head. She carefully placed the plug into its receptacle."

    This allowed Maigret to hear the conversation between Naud and his brother-in-law, Judge Bréjon, and to understand things clearly... Having gotten what he wanted, the Chief Inspector reassured the postmistress that he wouldn't denounce her...

    "Good night, Mademoiselle. Have no fear. I will be discreet"

  • In Félicie est là [FEL], Maigret encounters another postal attendant, with whom he was able to ingratiate himself...

    "He already had his habits. He brought them with him wherever he went. He had an agreement with the postmistress that she call him through the window as soon as the call came in for him from Paris."

    Maigret navigated – on his bicycle! – from Félicie's house to the village café, coming to gather information, with the willing assistance of the postmistress...

    He was sitting once more on the terrace at the Anneau-d'Or. The postmistress signaled to him.

    "I've already put in two calls to Paris... They should be calling back any minute."

    Maigret left his bicycle on the terrace of the Anneau-d'Or, meeting the postmistress in the cool shade of the post office.

    "No calls for me?"

    "Just a message."

    "You're still expecting some calls?" asked the postmistress, who had never had so many distractions in her life.

    "It's possible. I'll send over my Sergeant..."

    "How exciting, to be with the police! We who, in our poor little corner, never see anything!"

    He smiled mechanically, instead of shrugging his shoulders as he wanted to....

    The postmistress continued her good services...

    A window opened, across the way, a hand beckoned, a voice called,

    "Telephone, Monsieur Lucas..."

    The hand continued to move at the window. Lucas rushed over. Maigret was about to get back on his bicycle, the lobster [Félicie's famous lobster!] in his hand.

    "It's for you, Patron"

    After his telephone conversation, punctuated by adventures of the lobster, Maigret warns the postmistress, always counting on her assistance...

    "I'm afraid you won't get too much sleep tonight... I'm beginning to think maybe none at all..."

  • We encounter another postmistress in Mon ami Maigret [AMI]... Maigret, strolling on the island of Porquerolles, discovers the post office, in front of which was situated a green bench, where he would spend a part of his afternoon. He would make the acquaintance of the postmistress with the odd name...

    It wasn't her nickname. The fat girl hadn't created it herself. She'd actually been called Aglaé ["radiant beauty"] since her baptism. She was very fat, especially her lower half, deformed like a woman of fifty or sixty who grew heavy, and, in contrast, her face was completely childlike, for Aglaé was merely twenty-six."

    And he discovered that she, like Mlle Rinquet, listened in on the conversation, with a certain naïveté, perhaps less innocent than she seemed...

    "I was wondering whether you'd come in," exclaimed Aglaé on seeing him enter. "I thought you might need the phone, and didn't want to use the one at the Arche, where everyone could hear you...

    "Well then, get me the PJ."

    "I know the number. I was the one who placed the call for your Inspector when he called you.

    He wanted to ask, "And you listened in?" But she wasn't slow to inform him herself...

    When he left the booth, he saw Aglaé who, calmly, without a trace of shame, took off her headphones.

    "You listen to all the conversations?"

    "I stay on the line in case you get disconnected. I don't trust the operator at Hyères, who's a vixen.

    "You do the same for everyone?"

    "In the morning, I don't have time, because of the mail, but in the afternoon it's easier."

    Nevertheless, Aglaé's activities will aid Maigret well in his investigation... It's when she reports the conversation that Marcellin had had with Ginette, then the telegram he had received. Maybe that's why he doesn't stop her when he receives a call with information from Lucas...

    Aglaé listened shamelessly, and, over the glass, winked at Maigret to emphasize passages she liked. ...

    He found himself with Aglaé, separated from her by the wire mesh grill. She seemed to be enjoying herself. ... There was a large bouquet of mimosas on her desk, a bag of candy, which she offered to the Chief Inspector. ... She probably wasn't dangerous, but Maigret preferred not to get too close, not to stay too long with her. She'd asked him, for example,

    "Aren't you going to call your wife?"

  • The last postmistress encountered in the corpus is Léonie Birard, murdered in a little village in Charentes (Maigret à l'école [ECO]). The postmistress, before her retirement, had had the habit, not only of listening in on conversations, but of diverting the mail, and she knew all the little secrets of the residents, which provided a good motive for a murder. Almost disabled, she walked with a cane, and

    was very fat, even enormous. She looked like she wore a wig. And she had a beard and mustache, black hair on her chin.
    Making her a popular target of the village ruffians. The spirit of Léonie, her vindictiveness, seemed to hover over the populace, to the point where Maigret, when he went to the post office to make a call, and there met the new postmistress, "a young woman of about twenty-five wearing a black blouse", wondered to himself, "if she were married, if she would marry one day, if she would become like old Birard"...


Maigret and Aglaé, in the episode Mon ami Maigret
(Bruno Crémer series)

Maigret and Mlle Rinquet, in the episode
L'inspecteur cadavre (Jean Richard series)

2. The Nurses

Over the course of his career, Maigret has had numerous occasions to go to hospitals, whether to meet victims, witnesses, or one of his wounded inspectors. Besides physicians, professors and interns, he has also encountered nurses. Here are some, described in more or less detail, met in the corpus...

  • a nurse with red hair, named Berthe, at the hospital from which Jean the (barge) carter fled (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO])

  • a nurse at the hospital Pierre le Clinche is being cared for (Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN]), who had "movements that a long professional habit had rendered precise"

  • a nurse at the hospital where Maigret had been taken (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]): "a beautiful girl, large, strong, strikingly blonde"

  • a nurse at the hospital where Jacques Pétillon was cared for (Félicie est là [FEL]), "a young nurse with platinum hair, in an outrageously tight blouse that hugged her shape", and who Maigret would treat as a "dimwit", because she had dared to giggle when Félicie went by

  • the duty nurse at the hospital where Maria had just given birth (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), "a middle-aged woman, who appeared indifferent to Maigret's fame" and another nurse, "young and blonde, plump under her blouse"

  • a nurse at the hospital where Maigret was taken (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), "very pretty in her uniform"

  • at the hospital where Janvier was being cared for (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), "a red-headed nurse" on whose face could be read "a professional busyness", and another, without physical description, wo assisted with the conversation between Maigret and his inspector

  • we also find a nurse, also undescribed, by Lognon's bed (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG])

  • in Le revolver de Maigret [REV], the Chief Inspector telephones the special clinic to which Lagrange had been brought - ; it was a "red-headed nurse that he knew", who answered

  • in Maigret se trompe [TRO], we meet Mme Gouin, a former nurse, who had kept from her métier a certain calm and a certain assurance; at the hospital where Dr. Gouin practiced, there were clearly many nurses, the head nurse of the day was "a middle-aged woman, hair already white"

  • in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR], Maigret will meet the daughter of Aline Calas, Lucette, who works at the Hôtel-Dieu... she is "fairly tall, with a calm, serene face" and her appearance is in strong contrast to that of her mother

  • in Maigret et le clochard [CLO], the head nurse who works at the hospital where Keller had been admitted, doesn't welcome Maigret with much enthusiasm...

    She turned to Maigret.

    "It's you who's come to see the clochard?"

    "Chief Inspector Maigret..." he repeated.

    She searched her memory. The name meant nothing to her.

    And when Maigret had gotten the okay from the doctor to see the clochard, she watched the Chief Inspector pass "with some disapproval."

    It was no better on his second visit...

    The head nurse came to the door from time to time to watch them, showing her discomfort and dissatisfaction.

    Later, when Maigret told his wife about Mme Keller's visit to the hospital, he told her about the head nurse...

    "You went back into the room?"

    "Yes... In spite of the disapproving looks of the head nurse..."

    She'd become a sort of personal enemy.

  • in Maigret et le fantôme [FAN], we find again Lognon in the hospital; Maigret pays him a first visit, and he meets Inspector Créac, who tells him,

    "I think you'd better put out your pipe, Chief Inspector. There's a kind of dragon here who will pounce on you as she did me when I was about to light my cigarette...

    "You don't have any news?"

    "No... I tried in the office on the left, but the old lady..."

    It was the office of the head nurse, whom Créac had called "the dragon". Maigret knocked. An unfriendly voice bid him enter.

    "What is it?"

    "Forgive me for bothering you, Madame. I'm the head of the homicide division of the Police Judiciaire..."

    The cold regard of the woman seemed to say, "So...?""

  • And lastly, Maigret met another nurse, not described, in Maigret et le tueur [TUE], at the hospital where Antoine Batille hade been taken.

    We also encounter nurses outside of hospitals, like the one who came to care for Mlle Berthe (Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant [ber]), or for Mme Boursicault (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), or even the one who accompanied M. Owen (L'improbable Monsieur Owen [owe]), "a blonde, with gray eyes [... with a full figure, but not heavy, with appetizing skin", according to M. Louis, but whom Maigret, for his part, found less charming...

    "If her features were regular, they were hard, too sharp to give any sense of feminine weakness."...
    Germaine Devon, pretending to be a nurse, was in reality the accomplice of an international crook, and she would provide the Chief Inspector with numerous headaches. And then the nurse who worked at the Hotel George-V, Mlle Genévrier, "with gray hair, and a gray face" (Maigret Voyage [VOY]).

    To sum up, we can divide the nurses met by Maigret into two categories... they're either rather young and pretty, attractively shapely, or older, and relatively cantankerous. Here we find the same dichotomy we noted when we considered the concierges.

3. The Parish Priests

After these feminine characters, we'll turn to the men...

In Maigret's memories of childhood, an important place is give to reminiscences about his time as a choir boy, echoing the life of the author... The puffs of incense, the responses of the mass, appear throughout the corpus, and the character of the parish priest, the curé, also occupies a prominent position.

  • The first curé who appears in the corpus is the one Maigret meets – not surprisingly – in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]. A character in contrast with that of the Doctor, another key figure in the world of Maigret – and Simenon. This encounter is also an occasion for Maigret to remember the curé of his childhood, and a play of contrasts is established... The current curé of Saint-Fiacre is "a young priest enthralled by mysticism", who says the mass unhurriedly, the opposite of the old curé who "skipped half the verses". In a memory in Mon ami Maigret [AMI], the Chief Inspector recall the curé of his childhood village, who "disposed of [the first mass] so quickly that the young Maigret hardly had time for his responses as he ran with his curets."

    The current curé of Saint-Fiacre, with his "passionate look", was a "man of thirty-five, with regular features but so serious that he made your think of the fierce faith of the monks of old." He was tormented because he didn't know how to convince the Countess to abandon her relations with her young secretary. He had probably heard the confession of the one guilty of the murder, but he couldn't denounce him (the "secret of the confessional"), which didn't stop him from assisting – with full discretion - the Count Saint-Fiacre, first by providing what was necessary for the funeral, and then in the famous scene of the dinner at the château.

  • Most of the other curés Maigret encountered, were at funerals. For example, the curé in Liberty Bar [LIB], who tells Boutigues that the service would be without music. Nothing else about this curé, for this quickly dispatched funeral. Similarly for the funeral of Cécile and that of her aunt (Cécile est morte [CEC]), where the curé dashed through the absolution at full speed. And it wasn't so different in Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN], where the curé "walked quickly under his umbrella", or in La folle de Maigret [FOL]... "You would have thought everyone was in a hurry, the curé as well as the undertakers.". It was hardly better in Maigret et l'indicateur [IND], where the curé, after having taken the time to greet Line Marcia, "recited some prayers in a low voice". We find again a "priest, very old", who officiates at the funeral of Antoine Batille (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]).

  • Some curés are less furtive... for example, in Le témoignage de l'enfant de chœur [TEM], the curé of the chapel is a "a very tall and gaunt priest", with "the blue eyes of a stained glass saint". In Maigret à l'école [ECO], at the funeral of the postmistress, the priest "finds the time to look at everyone in turn, and his eyes stop for an instant on Maigret". At the end of his investigation, when Maigret has revealed the guilty party, he meets the curé once more, and
    "it seemed to the Chief Inspector that he was trying to cross the street to come and talk to him. He wanted to know, him too. He knew from the confession about Marcel's lie. But he was the only one who had the right to say nothing. Maigret greeted him and the priest seemed a little surprised."

  • Here is still another priest, Abbé Barraud, Jaquette's spiritual leader (Maigret et les vieillards [VIE])... "Abbé Barraud was standing, very old indeed, skeletal, with wild hair, very long, in a halo around his head. His cassock was shiny with wear, poorly mended. ... The priest was sitting on a chair, took from his cassock a wooden box, inhaled a pinch of snuff. This action, and the shreds of tobacco on the gray cassock, brought back old memories to Maigret." A memory we find in Maigret à Vichy [VIC], when Maigret is questioned by the doctor about his drinking habits... "That brought him back to his childhood, the village confessional which smelled of musty old wood and the curé who took snuff."


Maigret and the curé, in the film Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre, with Jean Gabin

Maigret and the curé, in the episode Maigret et l'enfant de chœur (Bruno Crémer series)

4. The lawyers

The lawyer is a character Maigret calls on when there are questions of inheritance in a case. The man of the law is the guardian of the secrets of succession, the secrets of the family. Consider M. Braquement, Lise Gendreau's lawyer (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE])... "He was in his eighties. All the others were afraid of him, because he was the only one who knew."

  • The first lawyer we encounter in the corpus is M. Petit, in M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]. Maigret doesn't actually call on his services, but it happens that the Chief Inspector is seeking a doctor, and that he is about to play bridge at the lawyer's. He is "a very neat old man, with silky hair, skin as smooth as a baby's." We will see that this distinguished portrait is often applied, in the corpus, to the characters of lawyers.

  • Here is the lawyer Germain La Pommeraye, in L'auberge aux noyés [noy]... practicing in Versailles, a "gray-haired" man, "tall and elegant, a dull complexion", who remained "calm and dignified" in spite of his daughter's situation.

  • The paragon of lawyers in the corpus is doubtless M. Motte, in Le notaire de Châteauneuf [not]: "a man of fifty or sixty, dressed in black, with a cold propriety, almost excessive", with a "head of thick, white hair". He comes seeking the assistance of Maigret, who is retired, regarding the theft of some ivory objects. The lawyer, whose coolness and seriousness make the ex-Chief Inspector want to joke with him, is unable to convince him to investigate. And Maigret notices that he "had let himself become spellbound" by this "strange man, master of himself, with the careful speech, and impeccable manners".

  • We find a somewhat similar situation in Maigret à New York [NEW]... Jean Maura's lawyer, M. d'Hoquélus, and old man whose seriousness impressed Maigret, succeeds in convincing him, and then our ex-Chief Inspector is embarking for distant America

  • In Maigret se fâche, [FAC] we find M. Ballu, who lives on the Quai Voltaire, in Paris. He is Bernadette Amorelle's lawyer, and Maigret goes to question him about the will made by the old lady. M. Ballu is "very old... His lips were all yellowed from nicotine, he spoke in a soft, shaky voice, then pointed his ear trumpet towards the speaker." Parisian lawyers seem to have less class than those of the provinces...

  • In Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR], we have a portrait of another provincial lawyer, M. Canonge, "a fine-looking man of around sixty", "tall and strong, ... dressed almost too fastidiously", "a ruddy complexion below his silver hair, ... neat, clean-shaven, perhaps a discreet hint of eau de Cologne", "he listened to himself talk, holding his cigar in his manicured hands in a well-practiced gesture, which showed off his gold signet ring"; in short, a sort of dandy lost in the austere world of legal studies, but not averse to adventure, when business brings him to Paris... Come to find Maigret to speak with him about Aline Calas's past, he brings the Chief Inspector into Montparnasse nightclubs, where the two men spend the best part of the night drinking...

  • Other lawyers, much less colorful, are there just to do their jobs, without the author giving any details about them... So, M. Audoin, in Un échec de Maigret [ECH], come to verify the contents of the safe at Fumal's; or M. Barbarin, who Maigret telephones to ask for the contents of Léonard Lachaume's will (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]); or yet M. Prijean, (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), to whom Maigret telephones as well, to ask him for information about Keller's marriage; or finally M. Leroy-Beaudieu (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]), to whom Maigret telephones to ask for information about Félix Nahour's will.

  • In Maigret et les vieillards [VIE], Count de Saint-Hilaire's lawyer is M. Aubonnet, "a very old man, who was further, not in very good condition", and who "retained a certain stoutness, but his body was soft, completely wrinkled. He had a shoe on one foot... on the other, the ankle swollen, a felt slipper"; "his mouth was soft as well, and the syllables which came out formed a kind of porridge"; far from the almost aristocratic style of M. Canonge…

  • The last lawyer we will meet in the corpus is quite differnt... Maigret will not meet him in person, and for good reason, but he will have to investigate him, since he is M. Sabin-Levesque (Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA]), disappeared, and then found murdered. This last lawyer is quite different form the distant and senile old men previously encountered by Maigret... "M. Charles" is one of the most important lawyers in Paris, with a high-class clientele, brilliant in his profession. He "manages the assets entrusted to him with exceptional flair", which doesn't hinder him from being "very gay, playful, enjoying the bright side of life", wearing "light colored suits, sometimes checked tweed vests", "of medium size .... Forty to forty-five. Already somewhat pudgy... Blond hair starting to thin, and a chubby face..."

5. The postmen

The postman is essentially, in the Maigrets, a typical character of the rural world. Perched on his bicycle, the postman traverses the country roads, the suburbs, a link between the inhabitants of the villages. And so it is during his investigations outside of Paris that Maigret encounters postmen.

  • The first postman in the corpus is the one Maigret meets in Saint-Fargeau (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), a postman on a bicycle, "with the purple neck of the apoplectic"; the Chief Inspector questions him about the mail received by Emile Gallet.

  • We meet another postman on a bicycle in Le fou de Bergerac M. Gallet, décédé [FOU]; no details on him... Maigret simply sees him, from his hotel room, carrying a mailbag to the post office.

  • The only postman met in Paris is found in Maigret [MAI]... the one the Chief Inspector sees enter the hotel, rummaging through his leather bag, while Maigret is waiting for a saw to cut off a piece of a broom handle. The appearance of this postman is, however, quite astonishing, in this context, so we have to wonder whether the author didn't put him in simply for decoration, to complete the sunny scene of "joyful craziness", such as is described...

  • The postman appears often in L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]. This one is a little more detailed, because he plays a more important role in the plot... named Josaphat, he drinks a lot; Maigret questions him in vain about the large sum of money received by Mme Retailleau.

  • And here another postman, at the beginning of Félicie est là [FEL]... he'd just mounted the hill, passing by bicycle, and announced to Félice that there was no mail for her.

  • Another postman, insular, this one, in Mon ami Maigret [AMI]... like the other residents, he awaits the arrival of the boat, wearing a "uniform helmet".

  • The last postman in the corpus is the one at Saint-André (Maigret à l'école [ECO])... named Ferdinand Cornu, he had lost his left arm, probably in the war, and it had been replaced by an iron hook; his face was "the sanguine reddish-brown face of a man who spends his days in the sun", and he, too, drank a lot.

6. Valets and butlers

From the rural world, we will climb into other social spheres. The last group of our secondary characters, people of domesticity, or more precisely, valets and butlers (the terms are relatively interchangeable under Simenon's pen), who practice their profession in the "great houses". In charge of greeting visitors, responsible for the personal effects of their master, the valet, and his counterpart, the butler, who also serves at the table, act as a sort of insignia of the aristocratic world.

  • The first valet encountered by Maigret in the corpus is found in M. Gallet décédé [GAL]... in the service of M. de Saint-Hilaire for only a year, which raised a warning flag for Maigret.

  • We next meet a butler, named Delphin, at the house of the Mayor of Concarneau (Le chien jaune [JAU])... this great bourgeois, living in a villa resembling a "feudal castle", would of course have servants...

  • The next valet is that of the Saint-Marcs (L'ombre chinoise [OMB])... in the aristocratic apartment at the Place des Vosges, the servant is conscientious... in the evening, he draws the curtains "slowly, conscientiously"; as for Maigret, who has come to visit M. de Saint-Marc, he requests his card before permitting him to enter; and he wears a striped vest, a sort of uniform which we well see again on this kind of character in the corpus.

  • We meet the next butler in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]... named Albert, he works at the château, and the general carelessness is also found in the personnel... the first appearance of the butler is positive... when they brought back the body of the Countess, the butler appeared "half in livery"; later, when the Count brings back some guests invited to the château before dinner, he rings for the butler, who "made them wait a long time, arrived with his mouth full, his napkin in his hand"; in contrast, outside of the dinner, he has recovered a certain dignity, as when he felt the Count was in charge of the situation... Albert served the guests "wearing white gloves", and when he "noticed a hand extended towards a bottle, he approached silently. You saw a black arm rise up, with a white gloved hand. The liquid flowed. And it was all done in such silence, such deftness..."; then, when the Count began to visit with his guests, with the guilty ones perhaps, and sent Albert to fetch his revolver, the butler became a sort of second, a second image of the Count... "And turning toward the butler, a demon with two chalk-white hands"...

  • We see another "servant in a striped vest" in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU], or more precisely, it's Mme Maigret who saw him, closing the shutter at M. Duhourceau's, and who mentions it to her husband, who had sent her to investigate in his place.

  • The next valet is found in Monsieur Lundi [lun], where he works as valet and chauffeur for Dr. Barion. Named Martin Vignolet, he is "a man of forty-five or fifty, with protruding bones, thick hair, whose rustic origins were evident", and who had lived in the colonies, in Algeria. So he didn't exactly have the classic physique for the job, nor the mentality, as we find... although married, he captured the heart of young Olga, and got her pregnant...

  • The next valet is of sterner stuff... he works at Philippe Deligeard's (La vieille dame de Bayeux [bay]), named Victor, and when Maigret questions him, he "answered with almost mathematical precision, and Maigret learned without surprise that he was a former sub-officer in the artillery".

  • Another "valet in a striped vest", named Jean, who Maigret sees beating a rug, before Forlacroix's old mansion in Versailles (La maison du juge [HUG]).

  • The next butler works for Ernest Malik (Maigret se fâche [FAC]); also named Jean, he carries out his functions "in a white jacket".

  • And the next valet works, "in a white linen jacket", at Dr. Bellamy's (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]). Named Francis Decoin, he is blond, of Belgian origin, thirty-two years old; he is married, but separated from his wife, and he presently lives with the fish seller, where Maigret will go for a lengthy questioning about the doctor and his associates.

  • In La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], we will meet both a valet and a butler, both working at the Gendreau's. The first is simply mentioned by Germaine, the maid questioned by Maigret... he is named Albert, and he was a jockey until the age of twenty-one; he is also the lover of the cook, who is the wife of the butler. The latter, Louis Viaud, plays a more important role in the story, since it's he who strikes the flautist, and helps with the hiding of Bob's corpse. Completely devoted to Lise Gendreau, he claims to have done the killing in her place. When Maigret meets him for the first time, he was wearing "a black butler's uniform"... "starched dickey, ... a collar, black tie"; "tall and broad", "his shaved chin blue, his eyes very dark, his black eyebrows unusually thick". Later, on the morning Maigret settles into the Vieux-Calvados to watch the Gendreau's house, saw Louis "in a striped vest, who came to stand on the sidewalk, where he calmly smoked a cigarette". We will learn further that Louis is the son of a school teacher, and is fifty-six.

  • In Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], a butler is mentioned, "Angelino Luppin, thirty-eight", who worked for the Count von Farnheim. For the same Count worked Oscar Bonvoisin, Arlette's murderer. At the time, Bonvoisin was thirty-five, and he served as a valet-chauffeur. The old cook that Maigret questioned described Oscar as a man "not too tall. Rather small. And that upset him to the extent that he wore high heels, like a woman, to make himself taller. ... He was withdrawn, never talking about what he did or thought. He was very dark, thick, coarse hair, growing low on his forehead, and he had thick, black eyebrows. ... He had ... broad shoulders ... extraordinarily muscled".

  • We find yet another valet, undescribed, to whom Maigret telephones at the Delteil's (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]).

  • The butler of the Vernoux's, Arsène, (Maigret a peur [PEU]) has claim to greater presence. When Maigret and Chabot go to the Vernoux's for bridge, the butler greets them with "a silent reverence". Maigret will learn later that he is the author of the anonymous letters. Here is how Maigret describes him... " brown hair, fleshy, between forty and fifty. He seemed like the son of sharecropper who didn't want to farm the land".

  • We will find the same type of character, a servant wanted to cut his ties to the land, in Omer Calas (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR])... son of a drunken day laborer, Calas had worked for four years at the Château de Boissancourt as a valet, before seducing Aline and going off with her to Paris. According ot the description given by Dr. Paul, Calas was "brown-haired, not too tall, fairly small, stocky, with bulging muscles, thick dark hair on his arms, hands, legs and chest".

  • Here is another valet from the countryside... Victor Ricou, in the service of Ferdinand Fumal (Un échec de Maigret [ECH])... he also wears a vest "striped in yellow and black"; he has very thick eyebrows, thick hair, a low forehead; he is the son of a drunk, and Fumal hired him to "save his neck", for Victor had been convicted of killing a guard while poaching.

  • Still a few extras who only pass through... another butler who introduces Maigret to Isabelle de V… (Maigret et les vieillards [VIE]), a valet in a striped vest who was vacuuming at the Wilton's (Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR]), a valet in a white jacket who introduces Maigret to Mme Rousselet (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]).

  • A valet described with a few more details is Carl, who works at Norris Jonker's (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN])... he is "very blonde, pink-skinned, fairly young"; the son of one of Jonker's farmers; he wears a white jacket; he's been working for Jonker since he was twenty.

  • And here is another butler in a white jacket, who is employed at M. Parendon's (Maigret hésite [HES])... Ferdinand Fauchois. He greets Maigret "with a calm dignity"; "correct and stuffy", he is nonetheless a former Legionaire; he has been in service the service of the Parendons for eight years; when he serves at the table, he is "gloved in white linen".

  • And a few more extras... a valet in a striped vest who is vacuuming at the Batille's (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]), a butler in a white jacket at Pepito Giovanni's (La folle de Maigret [FOL]), a valet in a striped vest who opens the door at Dr. Florian's, and a butler, named Honoré, who works for the Sabin-Levesques (Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA]).

And so ends this little tour of the corpus, with these various secondary characters, described by a few characteristic features to imbed them into the scene, where they evolve, giving a supplementary "little touch" which makes Simenon's descriptions so real...

translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, March 2013

Home  Bibliography  Reference  Forum  Plots  Texts  Simenon  Gallery  Shopping  Film  Links