James Fordyce - author of Sermons to Young Women

Personal data
Born 1720
in Aberdeen

Died October 01, 1796
in Bath

One of twenty children of George Fordyce (1663-1733) of Broadford, six-time provost of Aberdeen, and his second wife Elizabeth Brown (1688-1760). Married (1771) to Henriette Cumming (1734-1823).

Educated for the ministry at Marischal College. Licensed by the Aberdeen presbytery on Feb 23, 1743. MA from Marischal College in 1753. Minister of Alloa from Oct 12, 1743. In 1760 Fordyce moved to London where he initially shared the ministry of the Presbyterian congregation in Monkwell Street with Samuel Lawrence. Following Lawrence's death on Oct 1, 1763, Fordyce became the sole pastor of the congregation. Following his dismissal of the other preacher, Thomas Toller, in 1775, the congregation was split in two, and Fordyce's popularity declined. In 1782 he retired from the congregation and withdrew to a country residence near Christchurch, Hampshire, next to the former Prime Minister Lord Bute. In 1792 he moved to Bath where he died from syncope on October 1, 1796.

James Fordyce was the author of several sermons, very popular in his own lifetime and for some time thereafter. The best known of his publications areĀ Sermons to Young Women (1765), Sermons to Young Men (1777) and Addresses to the Deity (1785). Especially Sermons to Young Women had a great impact on contemporary society.

Addresses to the Deity is probably the work of most interest to Boswellians, as Fordyce here writes about Dr. Johnson that

"we may profit by his severe but salutary instructions, and in the spirit of meekness learn from so able a teacher the things that belong to our peace. Let not the graver dictates of his pen be lost in levity or forgetfulness. Nor yet let us rest with the transitory and ineffectual admiration of truth, when we behold it embellished by his vivid wit and glowing fancy; but may we follow its guidance with faithfulness and pleasure".1
  • 1. [WWB], p. 133
Life with Boswell

Boswell went with William Cochrane to Fordyce's meeting in Monkwell Street, London, on May 15, 1763, which was, however, presided by Hugh Blair on that particular day.


Antiquarian editions of his Sermons to Young Women (1765), Sermons to Young Men (1777) and Addresses to the Deity (1785) can usually be found via used books search engines such as AbeBooks.