In 1936 James Joyce wrote a letter to his grandson:
My dear Stevie, I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency.
The letter included his story ‘The Cat and the Devil’, a short fairytale with echoes of ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ and some delightful footnotes. ‘Stevie’ was Stephen James Joyce, who grew up to become the scourge of academic Joyceans as the fearsome executor of the Joyce estate. Academics, he once told the New Yorker’s D.T. Max, are like ‘rats and lice – they should be exterminated!’
Just over a month after the Joycean community sighed a collective sigh of relief as his work was released from copyright (at last I could begin work in earnest on my scratch’n’sniff edition of Ulysses), a second children’s story has emerged from the archives. The Cats of Copenhagen was written a few weeks before the ‘Cat and the Devil’ in another letter to Stephen, which was donated to the Zurich James Joyce Foundation by his stepbrother Hans E. Jahnke in 2006. The Ithys Press edition is a grand and expensive thing:
printed on the last sheets of Crisbrook Waterleaf from the renowned and now historic Barcham Green handmade papermakers, with paper-wrappers of Christopher Rowlatt’s hand-marbled fantasia and presented in a vibrant cloth-covered slip-case.
Its publication has not gone down well in Zurich. The foundation has said that it is
dismayed to learn that a copy of the letter to young Stephen Joyce of 1936 must have been used for its publication in book form. The foundation was never approached or informed, it was never asked for permission.
Anastasia Herbert, who runs the Ithys Press, has responded by citing the ‘much lauded “free Joyce” campaign’, and arguing that
a publication such as that of The Cats of Copenhagen is legal and valid and any attempt to interfere with its free dissemination is both unlawful and morally reprehensible.
Free only in one sense: the ‘lettered deluxe’ edition will set you back €1200.