Samara O'Shea

Stephen Joyce

James Joyce Dear Curious Readers,

Stephen James Joyce (1932 – 2020) was the grandson and sole heir to the literary estate of Irish writer James Joyce (pictured right in 1904). At the end of Chapter 1 in my book For the Love of Letters, there is a story about Stephen. It is a fun fact that James Joyce wrote several sordid (read: nasty) erotic letters to his wife, Nora. Although some of their sexual preferences are not my forte, I still admire the passion present in the letters. James and Nora had been together for five years and had two children in December 1909 when these were written. As I read them for the first time, I knew there was no better way to close the erotic-letter section of the book then with a shocking missive written by the man many consider to be the greatest writer of the 20th century.

At the time, James Joyce’s works were not in the public domain, I had to ask Stephen for copyright permission. After a few minutes of Google research, I got the feeling that I would spend an afternoon ice-skating in Hell before I was granted the rights to reprint any of the letters. Stephen did not make life easy for those who wished to reprint James Joyce’s work and did not allow letters to Nora to be reprinted at all. Now, I can understand it’s not easy to read erotica written from your grandfather to your grandmother, but the letters had been in print for 30 years by the time I came knocking. The damage had been done.

Despite my doubts, I had to give it a try. I wrote Stephen and asked if I could reprint one of the erotic letters [read my request letter]. The answer was a resounding no (!), which I thought you might enjoy reading (below). Let me say that I appreciate him getting back to me, with a handwritten letter nonetheless. The erotic letters appear in The Selected Letters of James Joyce as well as here. Enjoy! [Click on the image below to enlarge].


Letter from Stephen Joyce