Artist Catalog

James Vila Blake

Born: January 21 1842
Born in: Brooklyn, NY

James Vila Blake

James Vila Blake (1842–1925) was an American Unitarian minister, essayist, playwright and hymn writer and poet.

Blake was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 21, 1842. He graduated from Harvard College in 1862, and from Harvard Divinity School in 1866. He served as pastor in several Unitarian churches in Massachusetts and Illinois. He died in Chicago on April 28, 1925.

Different sources give different, and inconsistent, dates for his pastorates:

1877–84 - Quincy, Illinois

1877–96 - Quincy, Illinois

1883–97 - Third Unitarian Church, Chicago

1892–1916 - Evanston, Illinois

It is certain, however, that he was in Chicago on October 25, 1896. According to a contemporary report, he exhibited cool presence of mind when a serious fire broke out during a service. He was the last to leave the building, which by that time was full of smoke. Seconds later, it burst into flames and was consumed.

He published many essays on religious and other subjects, sermons, poems, and plays. Notably, he collaborated with Frederick Lucian Hosmer and William Channing Gannett in the compilation and editing of Unity Hymns and Chorals for the Congregation and the Home (1880), an influential hymnbook which was reprinted several times. It includes several of his own hymns. A revised edition was issued in 1911.

While pastor at Evanston, he penned a Covenant which has been adopted by many Unitarian Congregations:

Several of his poems were set to music by the English composer John Ireland (1879–1962).