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’.