Maigret's Faithful Four
by Murielle Wenger
|"It's Maigret... Please put someone on from my office... It doesn't matter... Janvier, Lucas or Lapointe if possible..." (HES)
Maigretphile friends, you may remember that in 2006, I presented a study of Maigret's collaborators, and at that time I promised you an article on the "Faithful Four", Maigret's closest collaborators, those with whom he has the closest bonds, who make up, in a way, his front line... Lucas, Janvier, Lapointe and Torrence. This is the time for me to keep my promise, and finally! I can present you my study on these important characters of the Maigret series.
What's remarkable in the Maigrets, is that this "hero" is rendered so human, so alive, by his creator, endowing him with characteristics very close to "everyday life"; he's given him habits, desires, culinary preferences, an appearance which gives him an extraordinary presence for the reader. It's Simenon's talent to have created a being of flesh, literally and figuratively, and it's rather rare in literature to deal with a character we know so intimately. Further, Simenon had the genius to have endowed him with an entourage serving him as outlet, confidant, and counterbalance. On one side, Mme Maigret, the indispensable component of the Chief Inspector's balance, and on the other, his "front line" of faithful collaborators, thanks to whom he can escape the curse of nostalgia for his lost paternity...
Moreover, Simenon has created these four characters as different and recognizable entities, endowing them with their own characteristics which make up their individuality (cf. MEM: "Where some 50 or so anonymous inspectors milled around in disorder, I've only kept three or four having their own personality."), which not only permits giving an authenticity to the part of Maigret's life which takes place in his office, but still offers the Chief Inspector a diversity in the manifestation of his feelings. Thus, Maigret will behave with Lucas as with his second, the one who stands in for him, while with Janvier, and then with Lapointe, it's the notion of paternity which will be more in play, Maigret "chaperoning" the two men in their apprenticeships of their métier. The case of Torrence is a little different... in the beginning, second to Maigret at the start of the corpus, after a "chance mishap", as we will see further along, he is replaced in this function by Lucas, and "Fat Torrence" will later take on another role, while not as close to the Chief Inspector, still important however for the touch of humor which he brings to the novels.
"the guys who know his methods" (JUG)
If I speak of the "Faithful Four", it's not by chance, since it's Simenon himself who uses the qualifier for them:
"Lucas understood that it was serious... Maigret was phoning for him, was going to take Torrence off the stake-out and pick him up on the way, so automatically Lucas thought of Janvier, the other faithful, as if it would have been abnormal for the operation to take place without him." (LOG)
It's also Simenon who makes the distinction between these four inspectors and Maigret's other collaborators, qualifying the four men as Maigret's "personal team" (PAR), calling them his favorite inspectors" (TUE), his "closest" collaborators (DEF, NAH, TUE, CHA), "his most intimate" collaborators (HES).
If Maigret calls all his collaborators by a familiar "mes enfants" [my children], it's to Lucas, Janvier, Torrence and Lapointe that his preferences go without a contest. He has a very close relationship with these four men, at once friendly ("Outside of his closest collaborators, like Lucas, Janvier, Torrence and, more recently, young Lapointe, for whom Maigret had a real affection, the Chief Inspector had no friends except Dr. Pardon" NAH) and paternal, particularly with Lapointe, as we'll see further along.
Maigret has not only transferred onto them the affection he couldn't give to a son, but he also appreciates them because with them there's no need to use long sentences... a glance is often enough for understanding; no need for the Chief Inspector to give long explanations, and even when sometimes he lets them in on his "cogitations", they appear grateful.
From their side, the Faithful Four devote to their boss a veritable "worship". The word is Simenon's own, and it appears at least twice from his pen. Thus in VOY:
"There were three at the Quai ... who granted the Chief Inspector an admiration bordering on worship: Lucas, the eldest, Janvier, who had been, some time back, as young, inexperienced and ardent as Lapointe, the third member, "little Lapointe" as they called him."
And in NEW:
"Torrence, who had no less a veritable worship of the Chief Inspector".
They understood their chief so well that merely by the way he entered their room, they knew what kind of mood he was in. We also note that Maigret often went into their office, not necessarily to give them a job or some orders, but because it was for him a way to "revitalize" himself, to refresh the bonds dear to him. If Mme Maigret represents the affective pole, at once conjugal and "culinary", of Maigret's home, the inspectors are his other affective pole, equally culinary for Maigret likes to bring them for a glass or to eat at the Brasserie Dauphine but also that of shared work. And it's striking to note, alongside the paternal references which accompany Maigret's relationship with his inspectors, that Simenon also uses symbolic allusions of a teacher and his students, a "substitute" form of paternity. Thus, we have on one side this passage, taken from MIN, and already cited in my study of Maigret's collaborators, but which I repeat here, for it is a perfect summary of the paternal relationship between Maigret and his men:
"This was not the first time he'd made such an entrance, less as a boss than as a comrade. He opened the door of the Inspectors' Office, and pushing back his hat on his head, went to sit on the corner of a table, emptying his pipe on the floor by hitting it against his heel before filling another. He looked at them one by one, occupied in various tasks, with the expression of a family father returned home in the evening, happy to recover his own, and taking account of them."
On the other hand we can cite this extract from FAN, which shows the "teacher-student" side of this relationship:
As was often the case, he didn't go directly into his office, but passed through the inspectors' room. Under luminous globes, each worked at his table like night-school students. He didn't look at anyone in particular, but it made him feel good to remake contact with the house and its professional atmosphere. No more than college students at the passage of their professor, they didn't look up, yet each one knew that he was serious, anxious, that his face was not just marked with fatigue, but a kind of exhaustion."
The importance of using "tu"
The closeness of the relationship between Maigret and his men is also denoted by the Chief Inspector's use of "tu" with them. Maigret uses "tu" sparingly, and those he addresses this way are rare, ignoring its special use by the police with certain "clients", generally those whose social origins are referred to as "low"... petty thieves, streetwalkers, pimps, etc., who constitute the "professionals" of crime with whom the police deal most often, and with whom they are, in a way, on an equal footing. Suspects or those presumed guilty from "higher" social classes, those where the crimes are more accidental (cf. MEM "Crimes which are suddenly committed in those settings where you expect them the least", in "settings where we are admitted reluctantly, where we stick out"), with those, in general, the Chief Inspector uses "vous".
Outside of "professional" use, Maigret hardly uses "tu", which he essentially reserves for his wife; even with Pardon, his only real friend, the Chief Inspector uses "vous". With his old schoolmates, he prefers "vous", permitting a certain distance (see Fumal in ECH). Finally, only his close collaborators have the right to a familiar "tu", and even then!
If Maigret uses "tu" and "vous" almost equally often with Moers, he uses with his more or less close collaborators, district inspectors, men in his brigade or provincial inspectors, sometimes "tu", sometimes "vous", depending in part on his affinity, and in part on his mood of the moment (see the study Maigret and his collaborators).
With the Faithful Four, things are less evident than they may seem. While we might expect them to receive Maigret's "tu", he sometimes uses "vous", and the explanations given by Simenon himself are rather contradictory. Given by the author in the novels of the last part of the corpus, these "clarifications" which they aren't exactly show us rather that Simenon is not very clear about this use of "tu", and at the very least he doesn't seem to have taken the trouble to reread his novels before making his affirmations. But rather, let's examine the facts...
The first "explanation" of Maigret's use of "tu" with his collaborators is given in SCR:
"Except for Janvier, with whom he'd always used "tu", Maigret only used "tu" and only with certain people in the heat of action, or when he was very preoccupied."
Now let's look at the second explanation, found in PAR:
"There were a few, like that, that the Chief Inspector used "tu" with, first off the old-timers, with whom he'd started, and who, at that time, used it to him too... though now they didn't dare, calling him Monsieur Chief Inspector, or sometimes "Boss". There was also Lucas. Not Janvier, he couldn't say why. And finally the very young ones, like little Lapointe."
Hmm, so with Janvier, does he use "tu" or not?
Let's look at the third explanation, given in TUE:
"Of all his collaborators, Lucas went back the furthest, and Maigret sometimes used "tu" with him. Also with Lapointe, because he had started out quite young, and he still seemed like a precocious kid."
Good, that seems to clear it up for Lapointe and Lucas, while...
Finally, the fourth explanation is in SEU:
"[Janvier] was the only one with whom [Maigret] used "tu" regularly. He also used "tu" with little Lapointe, the last to join the team. As for others, he used "vous", except sometimes when he was distracted or in the heat of action."
It would seem that Janvier would generally receive "tu", but if we take another, rather "telling" example from the corpus, we find that the contradiction still exists: In Ch. 6 of VIN, when Maigret has regrouped his team in his office to review the Pigou affair, we see the Chief Inspector giving each his orders, and so he says to Janvier, "You (Vous) Janvier, you (vous) go select six men who spell each other ..."; to Torrence, "For you (vous), Torrence... Your (votre) sector is the Place des Vosges..."; to Lucas: "Lucas, for now... You (Toi), Lucas, you (tu) will cover the Quai de Charenton."; and to Lapointe, "You (Tu) stay, at my disposition... You (Tu) will also organization our information...".
This hardly clarifies the problem of the use of "tu". And so I've attempted a somewhat more detailed analysis of the corpus, and I've tried to formulate an eventual rule for the Chief Inspector's use of "tu" with his Faithful Four.
So I've examined the case of each inspector, setting aside those novels where they are merely mentioned, but where Maigret doesn't address them directly; the novels in which Maigret speaks to them directly are by far the most numerous, so the numerical results are significant.
Let's examine first the case of Lucas:
Out of the 56 novels where Lucas is spoken to by Maigret, the Chief Inspector uses "tu" in 48, "vous" uniquely in one sole novel, and in 7 novels, he uses both forms. The first thing to note is that "tu" is clearly the form most utilized by Maigret, which seems natural enough between two men of whom one is the "oldest collaborator" of the other.
The only novel where Maigret only uses "vous" is PRO, and that is probably explained by the fact that it was the first novel, in the chronological order of the writing, where Maigret truly worked with Lucas. Lucas was only mentioned in LET. From the following novel (PHO), Maigret used "tu" with his inspector.
If we examine the 7 novels where the Chief Inspector uses the two forms, we note the following points: First, in TET, Maigret uses "tu" and "vous" equally, using "tu" in the heat of action or when he is moved or excited. We can give for example an extract from Ch. 2, where Maigret gives a simple order to Lucas: "Listen (vous), my friend! ... I want you (vous) to dash over to the offices of the "Sifflet", Rue Montmartre...", and an extract from Ch. 3, when Heurtin attacks Dufour at the Citanguette: Maigret, who had witnessed the scene from afar, orders Lucas: "Quick!... Take (tu) a car... Dash (tu) over there....". In the novels NUI, MAJ, SIG, VOY et SCR, Maigret generally uses "tu" with Lucas, and he only uses "vous" in a very clear context... when he addresses him in someone else's presence, for example, a suspect he's interrogating, and this use of "vous" is in a way "official": thus in SIG, Maigret is interrogating Le Cloaguen about his visits to Mlle Jeanne: "Then Maigret got up, headed toward the door, to call Lucas, and in a rough voice: "What's this, Sergeant...I notice that your (vos) information is inexact... You (vous) certainly told me, Sergeant, that Mlle Jeanne never used cards". Lastly, in CLO, where Lucas only appears on two occasions, when Maigret sends for him to get the belongings of the clochard at the hospital, and when the inspector arrives, Maigret uses "vous" at first: "Come (vous) into my office for a moment. It was to send him to Hôtel-Dieu... No doubt they'll send you (vous) from office to office... You'd (vous) best arm yourself with some kind of impressive letter". Then, when Lucas returns with the clochard's things, and comments on them, Maigret asks, "Did you (tu) take his prints?". In this case, I'd explain Maigret's use of "vous" as an example of distraction...
Now let's look at the case of Janvier:
Here again, "tu" appears as the form most used by Maigret, which is explained both by Janvier's age at the beginning of the corpus (a young man of 25 in TET), and by the paternal rapport which Maigret maintains with him (see below). Of the 45 novels where Maigret directly addresses Janvier, he uses "tu" in 39, "vous" in one sole novel, and both forms in 5. In the only novel where he uses "vous" exclusively with the inspector (VIN), Janvier appears very infrequently, and the only scene in which Maigret addresses him directly is cited above. We could speak here also of an "official" use of "vous". In the novels where Maigret uses the two forms, we find in CON the "official" form, like for Lucas, when Maigret speaks to Janvier in the presence of a third party, and in the 4 other novels (SIG, obs, VAC and TUE), Maigret generally uses "tu" with Janvier, using "vous" only sometimes when he is "distracted".
Let's talk now of Torrence:
The rapport between Maigret and Torrence being more complex (see below), this complexity also occurs in the use of "tu" and "vous". Of the 31 novels which apply, Maigret use "tu" with Torrence in 23 cases, "vous" in 6, and in 2 he uses both forms. He began by using "vous" with Torrence in LET, then used "tu" when the inspector reappeared in the Gallimard cycle. He uses "vous" uniquely in SCR, TEM, CON, VIN and FOL (we'll see below what role Torrence plays in these novels), and finally Maigret uses the two forms in BRA and SEU, though we note that in these two novels, "vous" is used much more often than "tu". (see in BRA this sentence referring to Torrence: "He didn't use "tu" with him, though he knew him before Lapointe.")
And lastly, let's examine the case of Lapointe:
Here things are much clearer: in the 34 novels considered, we find only one example of "vous", in SCR, where, we note, Maigret generally uses "tu" with the inspector, using "vous" on only two occasions, a little by "distraction". The use of "tu" is obvious with Lapointe, who Maigret has truly "taken under his wing", and who is for him an incontestable "substitute for paternity".
We can thus conclude, with regard to the use of "tu", that it's most used for the Faithful Four, that it seems evident that Maigret uses this form of address in view of the bonds which unite him to his inspectors, and that the "vous" indicates, for him, a way of distancing himself, used by the Chief Inspector according to circumstances. The "tu", familiar, friendly and paternal, is reserved by Maigret for his closest, and the Faithful Four, without a doubt, form part of the Chief Inspector's "family"...
Portrait of four musketeers
4.1 Good Lucas
After having appeared briefly in LET, where his name was mentioned by Torrence, he rejoins Maigret in PRO as an inspector for "he almost always worked with Maigret", then became sergeant from PHO (he had, in a way, taken the place of Torrence, killed in LET, and "resuscitated" by Simenon in the Gallimard cycle). Described since sta as Maigret's "second" , his "best collaborator" (eto), his "best sergeant" (FEL), he is the "right arm" (MEU) of Maigret, whom he often replaces in the office when the Chief Inspector is absent (AMI, MEU, CHA). Described further as the "oldest collaborator" (NUI, VOY, DEF, TUE, VIN), he's the one who will take Maigret's place when he retires (FAC, MEM).
Alongside his "official" presence in the Maigret corpus, the name Lucas appears as well in some novels published under pseudonyms... first, in the four novels signed Christian Brulls: L'inconnue [The Unknown], Fièvre [Fever], Les forçats de Paris [The convicts of Paris], L'évasion [The Escape]. In the last two, the name Lucas is only cited, while in the first two, Lucas played a more important role: In Fièvre, he's an inspector under the orders of Chief Inspector Torrence, while in L'inconnue, the roles are inverted: it's Lucas who is the Chief Inspector, and Torrence his inspector. Lucas also appears in two novels signed Georges Sim, La fiancée du diable [The Devil's fiancée] and Matricule 12 [Regiment 12], in which he is Chief Inspector.
Further, Simenon also set Lucas in some stories and novels signed in his own name, the novels One Way Out, The Shadow Falls, The Man Who Watched the Trains Go by, The Mouse, The Outlaw and Inquest on Bouvet; and the stories Philippe (in the collection "The 13 Culprits"); [The Mystery of the Marie Galante] (in the collection "Les sept minutes" [The seven minutes]); La Bonne Fortune du Hollandais [The good luck of the Dutch], L'Amiral a disparu [The admiral has disappeared], La Sonnette d'Alarme [Sounding the alarm], Le Château de l'Arsenic [Arsenic Castle], L'Amoureux aux Pantoufles [The lover in slippers] (in "The Little Doctor"); L'arrestation du musicien [The arrest of the musician], Le vieillard au porte-mine [The old man with the mechanical pencil], Le ticket de métro [The metro ticket], Le prisonnier de Lagny [Lagny's prisoner], Le club des vieilles dames [The old ladies' club], Le docteur Tant-Pis [Dr. Too-Bad], Le chantage de l'agence O [The blackmail of Agency O](in the collection "Les dossiers de l'agence O" [The Files of Agency O]). In One Way Out, The Outlaw and Inquest on Bouvet, Lucas is an Inspector (in The Outlaw he is under the orders of Chief Inspector Lognon), while in the three other novels cited, and in the stories, he is Chief Inspector.
I won't go into the details of the intrigue of these novels and stories "outside the corpus" here, but I will take from them some interesting elements which will permit us to complete the portrait of Lucas that I'm going to draw for you.
b) Physical portrait
Small (eto, MAJ, pip, FAC, MME, noe, PIC, LOG, TRO, PAR, COL), plump (SIG), pudgy (AMI), "almost as fat [as Maigret], but shorter" (POR), so that the Chief Inspector appeared "twice as large and substantial as Lucas" (LOG). The sergeant tried to copy his Chief's ways: "Lucas, insisting on resembling Maigret in all points, placidly puffed a pipe" (SIG); "Lucas was almost his replica, with a smaller head, shoulders half as broad, and a face which he could hardly render stern. Without boastfulness, perhaps without realizing it, by mimicry, through admiration, he had wound up copying his Chief down to the smallest gestures, in his attitudes and expressions... Even his way of sniffing the glass of plum brandy before it reached his lips..." (noe).
His short, portly silhouette, his short legs (TRO), his appearance of "a fat little man who walks with a bounce" (AMU), "trailing his left leg a little" (MIN), making you think "of one of those foolish dogs which seem to have sausages for legs" (MOR). These "canine" comparisons return frequently from Simenon's pen... thus in SIG, when Maigret learns of Mascouvin's accident: "Lucas was standing near him, a Lucas who averted his look and who had the air of a beaten dog"; in pip, when Maigret goes to look for Joseph at Chelles: "Lucas brought up the rear with the indifference of a Newfoundland dog"; in PIC, Arlette's aunt is accompanied by Lucas to the morgue: "She was taller than the sergeant, very cold, and, in the hallway where she led the way, she seemed almost to be leading him on the end of a leash."; in MEU, Maigret rejoins Lucas at Cochin where Janvier has just been operated on: "Little Lucas took several steps towards him, with the sideways gait of a beaten dog." We note that aside from the comic effect of this description, the comparison can also be "moral", suggesting loyalty...
The portrait can be further completed in saying that Lucas, beardless, usually with a close shave (VIE), except when he'd spent the night (LOG), worn a "Charlie Chaplin mustache"; or at least that's what we learn in [The arrest of the musician]! With time, he is going bald (DEF, The Man who Watched the Trains Go by).
As for dress, Lucas wore the same sort of clothes as his boss, the historical time of the writing requiring... a hat (PHO, TET, fen, LOG, TRO, ECO, JEU), straw in summer (pau), a Panama which, on his head, looked like "a native hut or a lampshade"! (GRA); overcoat (PHO, fen, MAJ, LOG, TRO) black (LOG, SCR), long and full, which made him look like a candle-snuff, said Torrence! [The arrest of the musician]; jacket (The Mouse); vest (The Man who Watched the Trains Go by); when he was in a good mood, he sported a bright tie (MOR), in fact "whimsical, blue with white polka dots" [The lover in slippers]!
And finally we note that if sometimes Lucas smokes cigarettes (pip, TRO, The Inquest on Bouvet), he prefers, loyally emulating his chief, to smoke a pipe (PRO, NUI, MAI, SIG, noe, The Mouse), which he does evidently "with a placidity mirroring that of the Chief Inspector" (FEL)!
c) Character portrait
Conscientious (sta, pip, MME), obstinate (CEC), patient (SIG), meticulous (pau, CLO), determined (PAT), trying in vain! to appear severe (PIC), with good intuition and tact, overlooking the fact that "everyone could easily guess his profession" (SCR), his qualities are appreciated by Maigret, who will happily see his sergeant succeed him in his position of Chief Inspector.
And once named Chief Inspector, Lucas will continue to take for his model his former boss, adopting the same attitudes: "Chief Inspector Lucas asked his questions benevolently, always with an air of not attaching much importance to them." (The Mouse); "Lucas, during this time, put on a mindless look, stuffing his pipe, hesitating to light it." (ibid.); "If he played at being a tough guy, it was, however, with a gleam of gaiety in his eye" (The lover in slippers).
And if he remained a calm, peaceful, placid man (The Good Luck of the Dutch), he had however, the "defect" in his qualities, of becoming scrupulous and nit-picky (The arrest of the musician).
d) Relationship with Maigret
The two men are very close, understanding each other without the need for long explanations (PRO, DEF), a wink of the eye or a glance (CEC, MAJ, BAN, PAR, COL), an exchange of looks (SIG, FEL, HES) could be enough, for Lucas knew his boss well (POR, CAD, FEL, VAC, LOG, DEF). If Maigret sometimes treated Lucas like an idiot (MAJ) or an imbecile (SIG), he still maintained his affection for him, translated into words as "good Lucas" (FEL, MAI, AMI, MME, noe, MEU, LOG, REV, TRO, VOY, NAH, VIN, FOL), "vieux [old]" (PHO, NUI, eto, CEC, MAJ, FEL, MOR, AMI, REV, FAN, PAT, HES, TUE), "mon vieux [my old]" (CEC, MAJ) or "my old Lucas" (PHO, MAJ, FEL, pau, noe, CLI, DEF), while Lucas continued to call him "Boss", even after Maigret retired (MAI)...
e) Personal Information
Identity: Lucas's first name never appears in the Maigret corpus; nonetheless, we know it, thanks to information found in The Shadow Falls: Lucas's first name is André.
Age: 10 years younger than Maigret (MEU)
Family: married (pip, MOR, ECH, VOY, SCR) his wife panics over nothing, and doesn't like to have people over for dinner (MEU); he has a brother-in-law who works as an accountant's assistant (ECH); he has family in Pau (AMU); a second cousin of his wife's works as a concierge at the Sorbonne (DEF); it's never mentioned in the corpus whether Lucas has children; one sole allusion to a possible descendant is made in The Mystery of the Marie-Galante
- Residence: lives on the Left Bank (LOG)
f) Notable feats of action and citations in the Honor Roll
tails: Victor Gaillard (GUI), Gassin (ECL), Victor Poliensky (MOR), Marton (SCR)
stake-outs: disguised as old and lame to watch the Polish gang (sta, CEC, MOR); surveillance of Félicie's house (FEL); surveillance of Aline Bauche (PAT)
gathering information: on Fleury (MIN), on old Antoine (FOL)
rough arrests: Nicolas (pip), the gangsters (LOG), the art thieves (TUE), Jo Mori (IND)
misc.: organization of the information on the Steuvels case (MME), the Ward case (VOY); in charge of the Mazotti case (COL)
4.2. Little Janvier
He appears in the corpus for the first time in TET, where he is assigned to trail Heurtin after his "escape" from the Santé Prison. In the Fayard cycle, he only returns once, for a brief appearance in GUI. From the Gallimard cycle, and especially in the Presses de la Cité cycle, he will take an important place, that of one of the favorite inspectors of Maigret, who will have for him an almost paternal affection, waiting for his "second son" who will be Lapointe...
Parallel with the Maigret corpus, Simenon puts Janvier to work in other novels... The Mouse, Justice, The Outlaw, The Trial of Bébé Donge; in two stories in the collection The files of Agency O: The arrest of the musician and The blackmail of Agency O; as well as in the story Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook, from the collection Maigret's Christmas.
While in Justice his name is merely cited as an inspector of the Sûreté of Nice, in The Trial of Bébé Donge, he is an inspector on the Flying Squad at Cahors. In The Outlaw, he is back in Paris, and he works as an inspector for Chief Inspector Lognon. In the three stories, he is an inspector at the PJ, and especially in Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook, he works with Chief Inspector Saillard, a "double" of Maigret. Finally, in The Mouse, he has become a sergeant, under the command of Chief Inspector Lucas.
b) Physical portrait
Tall and thin (sta), become a little pot-bellied with age (CHA), a gangly walk (MOR), and a face a little chubby, always closely shaven with pink skin (MEU) blond (TET) or red-headed (FEL).
For dress, he also follows the "classic" line of Maigret and Lucas: raincoat or overcoat (TET, PIC, PAR, NAH), hat (MOR, PIC, JEU, TEN, PAT), jacket (MOR, TEN, VIE), tie (TEN). For his suits, he likes light colors (VOL), like gray (The Trial of Bébé Donge).
He smokes cigarettes (TET, FEL, GRA, JEU, AMU, VIE, ENF), a bad habit, especially at night, and which isn't good for him (MEU)!
c) Character portrait
Entered quite young into the squad, he makes the blunders of a beginner... as in TET: he tries to put on a casual air when he's on a stake-out, is almost brought to tears when he's shaken off by Radek, who gets him drunk. It should be said that he has a slight weakness for alcohol (PIC, JEU)!
But little by little he will improve with age, and his qualities will assert themselves: meticulous (obs), natural (TRO) which makes him less obviously a policeman (TRO, SCR), liking delicate tasks (MIN), and filled with excitement when he succeeds at a mission (MOR, GRA, TRO, JEU, VOY, FAN).
d) Relationship with Maigret
As has already been said, Maigret has for Janvier an affection which tends to the paternal (see MEU: "Besides Lucas his right arm Janvier had always been his favorite inspector. He got him when he was still very young, like Lapointe today, and he took to calling him 'little Janvier'."). And on his side, Janvier also felt for his boss an attachment almost filial, knowing his methods and style, like Lucas (see for example JUG: "Someone from the Quai des Orfèvres, a Lucas or a Janvier, would not have needed to observe Maigret for long to understand."), exchanging winks or knowing looks (obs, MME, PIC, GRA, MIN, TEM, VIE, PAT, VOL, TUE, SEU, IND).
Maigret's affection translates, as for Lucas, into the use of terms like "my old Janvier" (obs, TUE), "vieux [old]" (TET, FEL, MOR, MIN), "my little Janvier" (obs, MEU, GRA, JEU, TUE, IND), "mon petit [my little]" (SIG, MOR, TEM), and "petit [little]" (MEU).
We also note once more that this affection reaches such a depth that it doesn't end with Maigret's retirement: "Then Janvier, the good Janvier what good men they all were that day, and how good it was to be with them again, to be working together like in the old days!" (FAC).
e) Personal information
Identity: we know Janvier's first name, for it is given in MEU: Janvier's first name is Albert
Age: Janvier is 20 years younger than Maigret (AMU)
Family: This is one of the aspects most clearly laid out in the corpus; Janvier's family and children hold a fairly significant place in the novels, and it's one of the facets by which Simenon has created a particularly "living" character. It's also something which helps to establish a chronology of Maigret's investigations, for we learn in the string of the novels, of Janvier's marriage, and the births of his children. Janvier's wife is named Marie-France (VAC). In MOR, he's only been married a year; in AMI, his wife gives birth; we learn in GRA that it's a boy; in PIC, the child is still an infant; in pip, Janvier awaits a new child; in MEU, he already has two children and is awaiting a third (as he hopes for a girl, we can deduce that the first two were boys!); in REV, he has three children, with the last less than a year old; in CLO, his wife gives birth to her fourth; in MIN, the child is newborn, and we learn that his daughter is called Monique (she will later marry an engineer (MEM)!), and one of his eldest will be called Pierrot.
We also learn that on Sundays he sometimes takes his family to Chelles (ASS), Vaucresson (HES), his sister-in-law's (ENF) or his mother-in-laws's (TUE); that one of his wife's parents had worked for Campois (FAC); and that his wife's sister had married Joseph, who'd been a waiter at the Brasserie Dauphine (obs)
Residence: Janvier lived at first on Rue Réaumur (MME), then had a house built (MEU) in the suburbs (MEU, GRA, LOG, VOY)
f) Notable feats of action and citations in the Honor Roll
tails: Heurtin and Radek (TET), Stéphan Strevzki (hom), Ellen Darroman (MAJ), Félicie and Jacques Pétillon (FEL), Alfonsi (MME), Meurant (ASS)
stake-outs: disguised as a cafe waiter to watch the Polish gang (sta); surveillance of Le Cloaguen's apartment (SIG), searching Lagrange's apartment (REV), Lulu's apartment (TRO), Saint-Hilaire's apartment (VIE), Palmari's apartment (PAT), Léontine's apartment (FOL), the Sabin-Levesque residence (CHA)
gathering information on little Albert (MOR), Arlette (PIC), Maria Van Aerts (GRA), Pierrot (TRO), Louise Laboine (JEU), Blanche Lamotte (MIN), Marton (SCR), Planchon (CLI), Marinette Augier (FAN), Ouéni (NAH), Joséphine Papet (ENF), Antoine Batille (TUE)
rough arrests: Oscar Bonvoisin (PIC), Eugène Benoît (MIN), the elder Mme Moncin (TEN), Mme Blanc (ENF), Manuel Mori and Line Marcia (IND)
misc.: helping Maigret in the Combarieu affair (obs), where the two men carried out an investigation a little as if they were "on a binge"!; shot in the right lung (MEU); responsible for the Jave case (AMU)
4.3. Fat Torrence
If Maigret felt like a "father" to his inspectors, in the same way that M. de Tréville felt himself the father of his musketeers, Torrence is without a doubt Maigret's Porthos... He has a physical presence and good nature hidden beneath a real "bad guy" exterior.
Torrence appears officially in the Maigret corpus in LET, where he is a sergeant under Maigret's command, and his principal collaborator. Inopportunely killed by the pen of Simenon, who will "exonerate himself" later (MEM: "(I believe that somewhere or other Simenon makes him die in place of another inspector who was in fact killed by my side in a Champs-Elysées hotel)."), and will resuscitate him at Maigret's side. He thus reappears in the story hom, then in the Gallimard cycle, and the Presses de la Cité. But there remains some residue of this "murder" of Torrence, and he never recovers his premier position with Maigret. If he is nonetheless one of Maigret's favorite inspectors, we must recognize that the Chief Inspector has a more distant relationship with him, using "vous" with him more often (see above), assigning him less important tasks than his other faithful, for he is often relegated to jobs "in the background", simple tails or stake-outs, when he's not just the driver (see SEU). It must also be said that in Simenon's portrait, Torrence does not manifest the same "depth of judgment" as the three other faithful, or at least that he doesn't have the same ability in his work. With regard to this, this sentence in SEU is significant: "Normally, he would have taken Janvier with him, but he needed someone completely trustworthy and capable of taking initiative at the Quai des Orfèvres during his absence." Lucas, absent from this story since he's on vacation, cannot replace Maigret, and it's Janvier that Maigret chooses instead... Further, if we consider the collection The Files of Agency O, in which Torrence appears (see below), he is far from first rank in the level of his intellectual abilities...
Torrence plays a relatively important role in some novels outside the Maigret corpus, and he's a character that Simenon seems to like well enough in his first police novels. In novels published under pseudonyms, Torrence appears as inspector in three relating the exploits of a "rival" of Maigret, Inspector Sancette: [Regiment 12], [The trembling man] (both signed Georges Sim) and [Lovers of misfortune] (signed Jean du Perry). He is still an inspector in [The wanderers] (signed Georges Sim), becomes sergeant under the command of Chief Inspector Lucas in [The unknown] (signed Christian Brulls), and finally he is Chief Inspector in two novels signed Christian Brulls, [The house of the vanished] and [Fever]. In this last, the roles are reversed, since it's Lucas who works as inspector for Chief Inspector Torrence. We find Torrence again in the story [The good fortune of the Dutch] (in the collection The Little Doctor), as an inspector working with Chief Inspector Lucas, also Chief in the collection The files of Agency O, where Torrence runs a private detective agency. Torrence is mentioned in the story [The invalid with the wooden head], as an inspector who'd worked with Chief Inspector Duclos. Finally, Torrence accompanies Maigret in three of the proto-Maigrets: Night Train, The Red-Headed Woman (where he is a sergeant and the Chief Inspector's "right arm") and The House of Anxiety.
b) Physical portrait
First described as "a slightly reduced reproduction of Maigret" (LET), Torrence will find himself bearing the adjective "fat" as an automatic description (FAC, pau, MEM, PIC, MEU, GRA, LOG, TEM, CON, BRA, COL, NAH, VOL, HES, ENF, FOL, SEU), but also the qualifiers massive (TET), broad and powerful (PIC), a heavyweight (GRA). He has also a "big voice" (noe) thunderous (PIC), which takes on over the phone "the sonority of a bugle" (MEU), the hands of a butcher's boy (PIC), a ruddy face (BRA). In The files of Agency O, his portrait is completed, and Simenon multiplies these qualifying adjectives: solid, tall (over 6 feet!), thick, fat, powerful, bulky, imposing, fiery, he's an easy-going colossus about forty well-groomed and well-fed, with the look of a good giant, with the broad nostrils of a bon vivant, a brick complexion which turns crimson when he becomes emotional, with heavy shoulders, a protruding belly (Torrence, like his old boss, Maigret, is far from scorning good food!).
As for dress, we note that Torrence wears black leather shoes (LET), a soft hat (MAJ), an overcoat (LOG), over his gray suit (Agency O) and his shirts have false collars (ibid.)
We add also that if in LET, Torrence smokes a pipe (obligatory resemblance to Maigret!), and that that's always the case in The files of Agency O (cf. this extract: "Torrence, pipe in his jaw, for he happily aped his old chief Maigret and took up a pipe even bigger than his"), and in the story The good luck of the Dutch, the rare occasions when this aspect is noted after his "resurrection" in the corpus in Maigret, usually say that he smokes cigarettes (MAJ, PIC).
c) Character portrait
Lover of good food and drink (cf. SIG, Torrence telephones his report to Maigret from a bar: "I had the luck to unearth here a splendid Vouvray..."), Torrence under his appearance as a colossus, hides a kind soul... in reality, he's a softy (CEC), tender-hearted (PIC), who has kept a slightly childish spirit and amuses himself by carving his initials into his desk at the PJ (MEM). He is also happily sentimental (The Files of Agency O). And the most talkative inspector in the PJ (SEU).
As for his professional side, if he's a resourceful (MME), and tenacious man who will not quickly abandon the game (PIC), who follows a trail "with the obstinacy of a hunting dog" (BRA), he is nonetheless lacking the requisite qualities for ascending in rank, and his "terrific appetite for life at the same time as a business sense hardly compatible with the life of a functionary" (MEM) are the grounds for his decision to quit the police and found a private detective agency.
d) Relationship with Maigret
In LET, the relationship between the two men had been very close, and foreshadowed what would later unite Lucas to his boss: as Torrence "virtually always worked with the Chief Inspector", they understood each other "without pronouncing an unnecessary word", "Torrence to whom he had to say but a single word, or just a sign, to have him understand". This very (too?) strong relationship, could it be said to be too strong to last? Were there perhaps unconscious reasons for the "murder" of Sergeant Torrence by the author, permitting the Chief Inspector to find later, in place of a single man at this side, a team of faithful whose characteristics offered Maigret the chance to be surrounded by a number of "children"... a family, rather than a single friend...
After Torrence's "return" in the second cycle of the corpus, his relationship with Maigret had changed he became a member of a team, in the same way as the other three faithful. Maigret calls Torrence the classic "vieux [old]" (LET, CEC, MAJ, SCR) or "mon vieux [my old]" (LET, LOG), exchanges understanding winks with him (PIC, LOG). And if he too is a "true follower" (NEW) of the Chief Inspector, he is clearly not as close as he was in LET. Perhaps he wasn't forgiven his move to the Agency O (we recall that the collection in question dates from 1938). Maigret employs Torrence above all for "subordinate" tasks, never, for example, giving him the responsibility of replacing him in the office. (Consider this, for instance from FOL: "It shocked the Chief Inspector a little to see Torrence sitting at his desk, in his own armchair", where Maigret had more than once allowed Lucas, Janvier, and even young Lapointe). And he rarely takes him into the confidence of this thoughts, which he does freely with Lucas, Janvier, and Lapointe.
e) Personal information
identity: Like Lucas, Torrence has no first name in the Maigret corpus; but we can find it in The files of Agency O; Torrence's first name is Joseph
Age: Torrence is 15 years younger than Maigret (LET)
Family: Torrence is unmarried, but he collects feminine conquests: cf. MEM: "He owned a great big American car which stopped from time to time in front of our door, and each time, he was accompanied by a pretty girl, always different, which he introduced to us with the same sincerity, as his fiancée."
f) Notable feats of action and citations in the Honor Roll
tails: Le Cloaguen (SIG), Adrienne Laur (LOG), Jean-Charles Gaillard (COL)
gathering information on Gérard Pardon (CEC), Oswald Clark and Edgar Fagonet (MAJ), Ernest Malik (FAC), the telegram from Concarneau (MME), the taxis taken by Loraine Martin (noe), on Françoise Boursicault (MEU), Alain Lagrange (REV), the Lachaumes (TEM), the Jossets (CON), the tenants of Josselin's boarding house (BRA), Guillot's dog (CLO)
stake-outs: at the Majestic (LET), in front of Serre's house (GRA), at Saint-Hilaire's (VIE), the Nahours' (NAH), Ricain's hotel (VOL), in Léontine's apartment (FOL)
interrogations: Philippe Mortemart (PIC), Carlotta (CON)
Rough arrests: the gangsters (LOG)
misc.: search of Mme Fumal's rooms (ECH), Maigret's driver throughout the Vivien case (SEU)
g) The curious case of Fever
This novel presents numerous curious circumstances, as opposed to the others in which Torrence appears, to the extent that we can ask ourselves whether it is actually a different character, whose name alone seems identical. Rather let's consider... The first characteristic: Torrence is Chief Inspector (that's also the case in The house of the vanished), while he is never supposed to have risen above the rank of sergeant when he quit the police to found Agency O.
Still, we could imagine that he had reentered the police, but other contradictions are more flagrant... First, he is married (at least we might admit that he finally wedded one of his conquests...), next, he evidences a mental subtlety ("he spoke with such authority, such calm") not found elsewhere in the corpus; but most astonishing is his physical aspect: in Fever, Torrence is described as a little man, with a stocky body, rather corpulent, admittedly, but everywhere else Torrence appears as a great strapping fellow... And finally, even his first name is surprising different, since Mme Torrence calls her husband "Francois"...
In fact it seems just as if Simenon, under the pen name of Christian Brulls, wrote a police novel, unconsciously under the influence of his Maigret novels that he wrote at the same time (remember that Fever appeared in 1932), and that the Chief Inspector he puts on stage, while named Torrence, is in fact a portrait copied from Maigret...
4.4. Young Lapointe
The "little newcomer" of the Faithful Four appears relatively late in the corpus, in MME, the 9th novel of the Presses de la Cité cycle. In creating this character, Simenon and Maigret himself did they imagine the importance that he would take on in the Maigret "saga"? To what unconscious motivation was the author responding when he assigned to the Chief Inspector this young neophyte in the police, awkward in his first steps, but to whom Maigret would quickly attach himself, and for whom he would develop a completely paternal affection? Why wasn't the character of Janvier sufficient to fill the filial role? Himself become the father of a (large) family, did the inspector become a little distanced, even in spite of himself, from the Chief Inspector, for he had himself founded a new generation? Or simply, to the extent that Janvier gained age and experience, did Maigret feel an increasing desire to have near to him an inexperienced inspector to whom he could transmit, like from a father to a son, his own experiences as a policeman and "seeker of men"?
We note, moreover, this significant little fact -- sometimes Simenon himself makes a mistake in the novels, reversing the characters of Janvier and Lapointe. For example, Maigret sends Janvier to a place, and it's Lapointe whom we find there a few pages later... there are at least four such occasions in the corpus, in BAN, TRO, TEN and TEM.
It's striking to realize that, setting aside the "autobiographical parenthesis" which is the novel following MME, Maigret's Memoirs, the next novel will be constructed around the character of Lapointe and his first love... PIC. Present in almost all the following novels, Lapointe will occupy a more and more important place in the investigations, and in particular in the affections of the Chief Inspector, no doubt also because, with the passing of the years, Maigret felt more and more that "nostalgia for paternity", which only the presence of young Lapointe would to some degree fulfill, at least partially...
Outside of the Maigret corpus, Lapointe appears but twice from Simenon's pen, in the two stories The Pigalle Songstress and The invalid with the wooden head. We recall that these two stories, written in 1952, were unpublished until their appearance in Volume 12 of Tout Simenon from Presses de la Cité in 1990. In these two texts, Lapointe is an inspector under the command of the Chief of the Special Squad, Emile Berna, who also called him "little Lapointe"...
b) Physical portrait
brown-haired "with lots of hair" (BAN), thin (HES), tall and thin (CHA), his youth giving him "more the look of a young student than a police inspector" (BRA).
He wears, like his colleagues, a hat (FAN, PIC, MIN, VOY, CLI) an overcoat (PIC, MIN, SCR) which can be black (FAN), a jacket (COR), and in the springtime he sometimes wears a suit "of a pale gray flecked with tiny red threads" (HES).
He smokes cigarettes (PIC, COR, ECH, AMU; VOY, BRA, FAN, ).
c) Character portrait
While presented as inexperienced in his debuts in the corpus (which goes without saying), he already possessed undeniable qualities: serious (MME), zealous (TRO), patient (VOY), all qualities which will lead him to surprising progress (SCR) in very little time.
d) Relationship with Maigret
This character is even more interesting in that we discover him at the same time as Maigret, that we experience with him his debuts in the PJ, and observe the progression and deepening of his relationship with the Chief Inspector.
In MME, we discover a Lapointe not yet self-assured, awkward and self-conscious before his boss, whom he doesn't call that at first "'Are you disappointed, Monsieur Maigret?' Young Lapointe would have liked to call him boss, like Lucas, Torrence and most of those on the team, but he felt too new for that; it seemed to him that it was a privilege that he would acquire like earning your stripes." Which he didn't delay doing, however, the occasion presenting itself shortly afterwards... "Well, Boss, are you pleased? Carried away by his enthusiasm and pride, he allows himself "the word" for the first time... not too self-assuredly..." But he had nothing to fear from Maigret -- who, on the contrary, took him quickly under his protection, and integrated him into his team: "Then Maigret intentionally spoke to him like to an old-timer, to a Lucas or a Torrence, for example."
And Maigret asked for nothing better than to play the mentor for the young inspector... "He was a good boy, still too nervous, too emotional, but something could probably be made of him." (MME); "his youth amused him, his enthusiasm, his confusion when he thought he'd made a blunder." (COR)
The boss-collaborator relationship will quickly be coupled with a paternal-filial one: "The two of them, with Maigret drawing small puffs gravely on his pipe, had the look of a father and son in serious discussion." (PIC), "Maigret regarded Lapointe with a slightly paternal benevolence , for he had taken him under his protection when ... the young man had entered the Quai des Orfèvres" (SCR). And even later, he would remain "Maigret's pet" (CHA)...
From his side, Lapointe never missed the chance to work with Maigret: "Maigret looked around and saw Lapointe turn away, reddening. The young man was clearly aching to accompany the boss." (MME); "he pushed open the door of the inspectors' office, wondering who to choose to go with him. ... You, Lapointe... Young Lapointe raised his head, happy as a lark. " (VOY); "Young Lapointe was there, delighted to work with the boss." (PAT).
As with the other collaborators, understanding passed with the exchange of looks (COR, TEN, SCR, CLO, FAN, TUE, FOL, CHA), and Maigret's affection translated itself into terms like "mon petit" [my little] (MME, MIN, ASS, BRA, HES, VIN, SCR), "petit [little]" (MME, PIC, MEU, MIN, ECH), "my little Lapointe" (MIN, VOL, HES), and sometimes "vieux [old]" (MIN, HES, VIN) or "mon vieux [my old]" (SCR).
When Maigret speaks of Lapointe, or when he thinks of him, he frequently uses two qualifiers: " young Lapointe", (MME, PIC, MEU, TRO, JEU, MIN, AMU, VOY, SCR, CON, ASS, VIE, BRA, CLI, CLO, COL; FAN, DEF, PAT, VIN), "which he would no doubt continue to call him when he was 50 " (TUE) and "little Lapointe"(MME, PIC, MEU, LOG, REV, BAN, TRO, JEU, MIN, TEN, ECH, VOY, PAR, SEU, CHA), "as they called him at the Quai, not because of his size, but because he was the youngest and the last to appear" (COR).
With the passing of the years, the relationship remained just as strong: "Some minutes later, Maigret opened the door of the inspectors' office and made a sign to Lapointe... who leapt up with a certain awkwardness which he couldn't overcome when in Maigret's presence. Maigret was his god." (CHA)
e) Personal information
Identity: Lapointe's first name is certainly known, since it played an important role in the intrigue of PIC: Lapointe's first name is Albert
Age: Lapointe was 24 when he started at the Quai des Orfèvres (MME, PIC), he was a little past 25 in VOL, 26 in JEU, and 27 in FOL. Simenon often emphasized his youthfulness, having him resemble more a student than a policeman (MIN, SCR, FOL). See also this sentence in The Songstress of Pigalle: "Lapointe, at 25 or 26, had a look so fresh, so candid that no one would take him for a police inspector." Furthermore, he keeps this aspect of a young man even ten years later (CHA). His youth is also the occasion for Maigret to remember his own beginnings,and his affection for the young inspector is no doubt mixed with a little nostalgia...
Family: Lapointe's father is in employed in a bank at Meulan. Lapointe has two sisters, the youngest, Germaine, works for a publishing house in Paris (MME). He also has an aunt confined to a mental hospital (FOL). By the very fact of his youth, we learn much of Lapointe through his love life, which is moreover at the center of the intrigue in PIC. With no "girlfriend" in MME, he falls in love with a stripper, Arlette, in PIC, but the young woman is unfortunately killed. Five novels later, Maigret, inadvertently or by some unconscious desire to help him forget his lost love, puts another "Arlette" under the inspector's care, and "forgets" to relieve him from his shift (BAN). At around the same time, Lapointe falls a little in love with young Lili, the adopted daughter of the old Chief Inspector Duclos (The Songstress of Pigalle and The invalid with the wooden head). Another five novels later, he meets another young girl (nothing prevents us however from thinking it's still Lili herself...), of whom we only learn in MIN that he has a date with her. "Almost engaged" in SCR, we learn at the end of the corpus that he has finally married, will have two children, and that his sister-in-law lives in Saint-Cloud (CHA).
Residence: after having lived with his sister (MME, PIC), he lives on Boulevard Saint-Germain (TEN), in a modest Left Bank building (VOY)
f) Notable feats of action and citations in the Honor Roll
tails: Xavier Marton (SCR), Gaston Meurant (ASS), M. Louis (PAT), Léon Florentin (ENF)
stake-outs: in front of the Marton's building (SCR), at Saint-Hilaire's (VIE), the Nahours' (NAH), in Parendon's apartment (HES)
gathering information: on Piquemal (MIN), on the night of Ward's murder (VOY), on Planchon (CLI), on Jean-Charles Gaillard's car (COL), on the paper of the anonymous letter (HES), on Oscar Chabut's acquaintances (VIN), Mme de Caramé (FOL)
rough arrests: Oscar Bonvoisin (PIC), Antoine Cristin (COR), Le Chanoine (TEM)
misc: recovery of the suitcase from Liotard's (MME), discovery of Thouret's room (BAN), discovery of the owner of the jacket with the torn-off button; (TEN); helping Maigret throughout the Josset interrogation (CON), finding the owner of the red Peugeot (CLO), finding Antoine Batille's friend (TUE), best stenographer at the PJ (SEU)
Through this study, my intention has been to show an interesting aspect of Maigret's character, that of his relationship with his close collaborators. A privileged relationship, that of a "boss" and his team, that of an "almost father" with his "almost sons", a relationship of a man with other men...
The study of the Faithful Four, in emphasizing the resemblances and differences which exist between these four characters, allows us to range the corpus, to analyze with a little depth the "psychology" of our Chief Inspector, underlining once more the profound humanity which marks Maigret, and showing the complexity of the world which flows from Simenon's pen...
"Well, boss? What should I do?"
"Nothing. Just wait till you're relieved.
As for me, I'm going to bed. Good night,
my children... Actually, could one of you give me a ride home?" (NAH)
Appendix: A graphic summary the appearances of each of the faithful across the corpus
[Click to enlarge]
translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, Feb. 2008
(top illustration based on an illustration from "Maigret tend un piège", O. Reynaud, Ph. Wurm, Ed. Claude Lefrancq, Bruxelles, 1993)