on the title (which is to say, about me)

Some of you may have heard of the absolutely magnificent Dorothy L. Sayers.  The L. is for Leigh.

My middle name also happens to be Leigh, and many of my friends call me Leigh.

But Harriet.  Harriet is different.  Harriet, speaking in material terms, does not exist.

Harriet Vane is a fictional character created by Sayers in her Lord Whimsey detective novels.  If you aren't familiar with Sayers' work, here's a little about her.

Sayers was one of the first women to graduate from Oxford.  She then went on to be an advertising copywriter (she wrote this fine piece of poetry her very own self), an intriguing Dante scholar, and a murder mystery writer, among other things.  She was also loosely affiliated with some of the Inklings.  Harriet stands in for Sayers a good deal in the novels, and I believe she was criticized for using the character in this way.  But if Sayers was anything like Harriet Vane, then I very much wish I had a Dorothy L. Sayers in my life.

There are all sorts of *ahem* "women writers" out there, but unfortunately few I can relate to.  Sayers, to my mind, conveys the difficulty of being a woman utterly out of place: too willing to ignore social norms, too passionate about her own work to fall into an easy life as wife and mother; but too susceptible to falling in love, too genuinely interested in finding a partner, to be really content either celibate or moving from one relationship to another.  She is an intellectual, and a writer (though her story could apply equally to a determined artist or scientist), and she is a woman, and the reality is that this combination is fraught with difficulty.

To put it bluntly, one often cannot do it all.  I know, I know; as an American I'm supposed to insist on doing it all.  But this side of thirty, I begin to suspect that trying to "do it all" is a recipe for self-loathing and disappointment.  Not to mention bad art.

So, there's the title for you.  The real, and the not-so-real.  The Leigh is me, sort of.  And Dorothy Sayers a little, too.  And maybe even a little bit Sayers' mother, whose maiden name was Leigh.  And the Harriet is Harriet Vane, yes.  But she's also a convenient imagining: a woman, who's a writer, whose relationship status makes her variously elated and despondent, but who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she must write, and she must think, and she must do both as well as she possibly can.

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