On Houghton Mifflin Fading Away

Kenny Brechner - May 26, 2021

With the acquisition of Houghton Mifflin by HarperCollins, it has been noted that the century-and-a-half-old name of Houghton Mifflin will now fade away. To understand what that will mean, I turned to the people who clearly have the greatest appreciation of the loss, namely the characters from The Lord of the Rings, Houghton’s signature franchise.

Kenny: So how will it be to have the Houghton Mifflin name removed from your epic tale?

Gandalf: The wise speak only of what they know.

Kenny: I take your point. It will be hard to know how it will feel until it actually happens. Still we must acknowledge that Houghton Mifflin has been a praise-worthy steward of The Lord of the Rings.

Faramir: Praise from the praise-worthy is beyond all reward.

Kenny: True, but perhaps you do feel a bit sad about things coming to an end?

Gandalf: It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set.

Kenny: I get that, a most noble sentiment. but perhaps a teensy bit of melancholy might be forgiven.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

Kenny: That is very philosophical of you and it is true that Harper has an august and noteworthy legacy of its own. But I do admit to being a little choked up about the fading of Houghton Mifflin.

Gandalf:  I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.

Kenny: Understood, but it seems a needless sadness to have 150 years of tradition swept away as though it had not been. Surely some more legacy-preserving path might have been devised for such a rich literary house. Or what would you say to HarperCollins?

Aragorn: “At last all such things must end but I would have you wait a little while longer: for the end of the deeds that you have shared in has not yet come.

Kenny: Let us hope not!

Curious George: Hey don’t forget about me! My first book with Harper, Curious George Gets a New Home, is coming out soon!

1 thought on “On Houghton Mifflin Fading Away

  1. VickeyB

    Well, I don’t know about Gandalf and the gang, but I was greatly saddened when I learned of the loss of the Houghton Mifflin name in last week’s PW article.
    I am just a reader–not a professional book person. I have always loved books (one of the first pictures my parents had of me was an 18-month old me “reading” a book. It was upside down.) I was always beguiled by the names of the great publishing houses: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich; Simon & Schuster, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, Knopf, Doubleday. As a child, at one point, I probably knew them all. I think I revered them so much because they took me places I could otherwise never go.
    This makes me sad.


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