James Vine, according to rumor, was supposed to have been one of Blake’s principal patrons, and the man who commissioned Milton. He is mentioned in the Keynes-Wolf Census (p. 102), and in Bentley’s Blake Records he turns up lunching with Blake and Linnell (p. 275), and purchasing Job, but there is little evidence to date that he was a principal patron, or is there even much certainty about his identity. However, I was able to discover a few more details about him, while coincidentally spending last summer on the Isle of Wight.
The Census calls him James Vine, a merchant of Puckster, Isle of Wight. For this information it refers to Bohns catalogue of 1843, which seems to be non-existent, according to Blake Records. In any case, the proper address on the Isle of Wight is Puckster Cove. Vine was buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist Church in Niton, Isle of Wight, on 16 July 1837 at the age of 63. In this same church, a brass plaque has been erected to the memory of his daughter, Augusta, by her son, Arthur.
Augusta was born in Puckster in 1821, implying that the Vines were living in the house called Puckster Close at the time. This was presumably their country house, Blake and Linnell having lunched in London. According to the church records, Augusta married Alexander Mitchell-Innes, but their son later took the name of Arthur Vine Innes-Vine and lived on at Puckster Close. He is still remembered by the church sexton at Niton. Arthur is said to have turned Roman Catholic and sold the house before he died, having been well known as the local squire and benefactor. If James Vine did indeed purchase much of Blake’s work, it would be interesting to find out if an Innes-Vine descendant has a book or painting hidden away.
G. E. Bentley, Jr. wrote me from England that he has recently found a few more begin page 107 | incidental references to meetings between Mr. Vine and Linnell; perhaps the future will turn up something more concrete about the actual purchases of this rather elusive patron.