Sermon on the Meath

JP Donleavy Reads From "The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B"

Although he may be best known for Sebastian Dangerfield, the bohemian ne’er-do-well hero of The Ginger Man, J.P. Donleavy’s characters have run the comic gamut through his many novels, plays and short stories, often inspired by his own life and acquaintances. Upon arriving to study at Trinity College in Dublin post-World War II, Donleavy encountered a whole world that, despite his own Irish heritage, was alien to him, given that he grew up in Woodlawn, NY. Individuals in his novels share this sense of alienation, whether geographically as with Clayton Claw Cleaver Clementine, the American inheritor of an Irish castle in The Onion Eaters, or through bereavement, as with Cornelius Christian in Fairytale of New York.  However, his experiences in Ireland at this time and later have afforded him a lifetime of inspiration: the shady European figures who sought shelter in the neutral country after the war pop up as the scientists in The Onion Eaters. A.K. Donoghue, a one-eyed Harvard graduate and fellow student at Trinity, appears throughout his oeuvre, most notably as Kenneth O’Keefe in The Ginger Man. But Donleavy's life as a country squire in Westmeath is also plundered for The Destinies of Darcy Dancer Gentleman. “Hunting gave you a social life, but I remembered seeing a man who was dining at Levington with quite a number of guests who ended up offering some hay to a woman sitting next to him in his hand because all she could talk about were horses,” he recalls with amusement. Here, Donleavy reads an excerpt of one of his best-loved books, The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, which focuses on the trials of an Anglo-Irish aristocrat.

J P Donleavy, 1965
Photo by Gil Friedberg/Pix Inc/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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