James Vila Blake

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Rev. Dr.

James Vila Blake
Born(1842-01-21)January 21, 1842
Brooklyn, NY
DiedApril 28, 1925(1925-04-28) (aged 83)
Chicago, IL
Alma materHarvard
OccupationUnitarian minister, and writer
Known forHymns, poems, essays and plays
Notable work
Unity Hymns and Chorals for the Congregation and the Home

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.[1]

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

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.[5]

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.[6]

While pastor at Evanston, he penned a Covenant which has been adopted by many Unitarian Congregations:[3]

Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law.
United in the free quest of high values in religion and life,
We covenant with one another:
To dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

Several of his poems were set to music by the English composer John Ireland (1879–1962).[7]


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Publications by Blake (arranged where possible by date) include:

  • Gannett, W. C.; Blake, J. V.; Hosmer, F. L., eds. (1889) [1880]. Unity Hymns and Chorals for the Congregation and the Home. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company.
  • Blake, James Vila (October 8, 2008) [1886]. Manual Training in Education. Owen Press. ISBN 9781443748650.
  • Blake, James Vila (April 6, 2010) [1886]. Essays. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1140567233.
  • Blake, James Vila (February 17, 2015) [1886]. Poems. Scholar's Choice. ISBN 978-1298111180.
  • Blake, James Vila (September 10, 2010) [1890]. A Grateful Spirit and Other Sermons. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1165274376.
  • Blake, James Vila (September 10, 2010) [1891]. Happiness from Thoughts and Other Sermons. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1165485499.
  • Blake, James Vila (September 10, 2010) [1891]. St. Solifer with Other Worthies and Unworthies. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1164866442.
  • Blake, James Vila (February 5, 2012) [1893]. More Than Kin: A Book of Kindness. General Books LLC. ISBN 978-0217318976.
  • Maxson, Henry Doty; Simmons, Henry Martyn (September 10, 2010) [1893]. Blake, James Vila (ed.). Sermons of Religion and Life. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1165033492.
  • Blake, James Vila (September 10, 2010) [1894]. An Anchor of the Soul; A Study of the Nature of Faith. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1166443238.
  • Blake, James Vila (February 4, 2012) [1902]. Legends from Story-land. Nabu Press. ISBN 978-1274468369.
  • Blake, James Vila (1902). Songs. ASIN B003T0GKWU.
  • Blake, James Vila (November 17, 2009) [1902]. Sonnets. BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1116987102.
  • Blake, James Vila (1904). Discoveries. ASIN B003U6ZFQK.
  • Blake, James Vila (April 6, 2010) [1907]. The months: A Book of Those Handsome Kin, for Love of Them All, and of Life, and of the Earth. BiblioLife. ISBN 978-1140349884.
  • Blake, James Vila (September 10, 2010) [1909]. So Like Her Father: A Drama, in a Prelude and Three Acts. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1165586561.
  • Aurelius, Marcus (October 31, 2008) [1920]. Blake, James Vila (ed.). Sonnets from Marcus Aurelius. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1437030891.
  • Blake, James Vila (May 1, 2012) [[year missing]]. A Play in Four Acts; The Lady Bertha's Honey-Broth, Founded on Dumas' Story of the Same Name. Rarebooksclub.com. ISBN 978-1156647790.[8]
  • Blake, James Vila (September 7, 2011) [[year missing]]. A Merry-go-round: A Comedy in Four Acts. Nabu Press. ISBN 978-1179745275.
  • Blake, James Vila (February 3, 2012) [[year missing]]. Natural Religion in Sermons. General Books LLC. ISBN 978-1151059635.
  • Blake, James Vila (March 27, 2010) [[year missing]]. Unity: Songs and Services for the Sunday School. General Books LLC. ISBN 978-1154882261.


  1. ^ a b "James Vila Blake". hymnary,org. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  2. ^ The Boston Religion, by Peter Tufts Richardson, p. 102
  3. ^ a b "A Chronological List of the Ministers who have served Quincy's Unitarian Church". Unitarian Church, Quincy, Illinois. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  4. ^ "A History of the Unitarian Church of Evanston" (PDF). Unitarian Church, Evanston, Illinois. Retrieved Feb 9, 2019.
  5. ^ "Work of a Cool Pastor" (PDF). New York Times. October 26, 1896.
  6. ^ Gannett, William Channing. "Unity Hymns and Chorals With Service Elements". Forgotten Books. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  7. ^ "Author: James Vila Blake (1842–1925) – Texts set to music as art song or choral works". recmusic.org. Retrieved April 27, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "La bouillie de la comtesse Berthe". dumaspere.com (in French). 1844. Retrieved April 27, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hughes, Amelia (August 8, 2012) [1908]. James Vila Blake As Poet: Being a Brief Appreciation of His Work with Representative Selections from His Various Books of Verse. Forgotten Books. ASIN B0093C34O0.