Addresses to Young Men


Addresses to Young Men is a collection of 16 sermons written and compiled by the Reverend James Fordyce, a Scottish minister. The sermons cover subjects such as honour, love, friendship, humility and fame. The collection was published in 1777, the year after the publication of Fordyce’s hugely popular Sermons to Young Women. This is the two-volume second edition, published in the same year as the original edition.

What values does it promote?

Addresses to Young Men emphasises the important role that young men have in shaping society. Because of this, they deserve respect from others and should respect themselves; Addresses I and II are titled, respectively, 'On the Respect due to Young Men' and 'On the Reverence which Young Men owe to themselves'. Fordyce describes ‘self-reverence’ as ‘one of the first and most comprehensive rules of right practice’. However, this must be mixed with humility, which is the subject of Address XV. He places the virtues he admires within a Christian framework, referring repeatedly to God, biblical stories and the importance of religious piety. He also stresses how easily young men can be led astray by bad influences.

Comparing Addresses to Young Men and Sermons to Young Women

The emphasis on self-esteem in Addresses to Young Men is very different from Fordyce’s message in Sermons to Young Women, in which he urges his female readers to be obedient and meek. In A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft criticises Sermons to Young Women, protesting that ‘moralists’ such as Fordyce expect all women to have the same character of ‘yielding softness and gentle compliance’, whereas they allow men ‘to cultivate, as nature directs, different qualities and assume … different characters’. Fordyce exhibits this attitude towards men in Addresses to Young Men, writing that there is a ‘great diversity’ in the personalities of young men, and as a result each one must be treated differently, according to his particular ‘tendencies and manners’.

Full title:
Addresses to Young Men
1777, London
James Fordyce
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles

An introduction to Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded

Article by:
Margaret Doody
Rise of the novel, Gender and sexuality, Politeness, sensibility and sentimentalism

Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded evolved from a collection of model letters into a bestselling novel. Margaret Doody introduces Samuel Richardson's work and its exploration of gender, class, sexual harassment and marriage.

Courtship, love and marriage in Jane Austen's novels

Article by:
John Mullan
The novel 1780–1832

Professor John Mullan explores the romantic, social and economic considerations that precede marriage in the novels of Jane Austen.

Victorian sexualities

Article by:
Holly Furneaux
Gender and sexuality

How repressed were the Victorians? Dr Holly Furneaux challenges assumptions about Victorian attitudes towards sex, considering how theorists such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler have provided new ways of understanding sex and sexuality in the period.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Tom Jones

Created by: Henry Fielding

Tom Jones is a picaresque story that chronicles the humorous escapades, romances and redemption of its roguish ...


Created by: Samuel Richardson

Pamela overview I will bear any thing you can inflict upon me with Patience, even to the laying down of my Life, ...

Pride and Prejudice

Created by: Jane Austen

During 1796–7 young Jane Austen (1775–1817) wrote First Impressions. Her early effort was rejected, but ...