1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Fordyce

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 66 (October, December 1796) 883, 1052-53.



8. At his house in Bath, in his 76th year, the Rev. James Fordyce, D.D. many years pastor of a numerous and respectable congregation in Monkwell-street. [A more particular account of this justly-celebrated Divine shall be given in our next]....

Dr. Fordyce was one of 21 children, by one wife, of Provost F. of Aberdeen, where he was first educated in Marischal college. His first preferment was to be minister of Brechlin, 1752; and soon after of Alloa till about 1760. In that year he came to London, and offered himself on a vacancy at the meeting in Carter-lane without success; the inconsistency of a person, who had subscribed a Scotch confession of faith, offering to be minister to a Dissenting congregation which held a very different creed, being strongly objected to. This did not, however, prevent his being chosen co-partner with Dr. Lawrence, in Monkwell-street, where he continued to preach to crowded audiences many years. Such was the fame of his elocution and gesticulation, that Mr. Garrick himself was attracted by it. The university of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of D.D. 1760. In May 1771, he married Miss Henrietta Cummyng; and, in 1775, was involved in a dispute with his coadjutor, Mr. Toller, son-in-law to Dr. Lawrence; at first, as it appears by the letters published on the occasion, on account of the omission of some ceremonials of politeness, which, by want of mutual concessions (for, the children of light are not always so wise as the children of this world), increased till the breach became too wide to be healed. On this occasion the Doctor, with the address that distinguishes his countrymen, took a step which was not universally approved by his Dissenting brethren; he engaged to do the duty of both parts of the day himself, and caused Mr. Toller to be ejected without any charge against him; for, he was a man of irreproachable character, though less popular as a preacher. From this period the congregation, dividing, declined; the Doctor began to feel the infirmities of old age, and at last the meeting-house was shut up. He retired first to his brother, the late Sir Wm. F.'s house, in Hants; and finally to Bath, where he died. His first publication was a preface to a posthumous work, on the art of preaching, of his brother David, who was a minister, and wrote also "Dialogues on Education," and a "Treatise on moral Philosophy," in Dodsley's Preceptor; and, on his return from a tour over the Continent, was lost in a storm, Sept. 1751, on the coast of Holland. His death is pathetically noticed by the Doctor in one of his addresses to the Deity; and he wrote the following epitaph:

Sacred to the memory
of Mr. DAVID FORDYCE,
late professor of philosophy in the
Marischal college, Aberdeen;
justly esteemed
for his learning and fine taste,
but much more valued
for his unaffected piety
and benevolent disposition.
The social duties
he warmly recommended to others,
and in his own conduct exemplified them.
The dutiful son,
the affectionate brother,
the sincere friend,
and the kind master,
were blended in his character.
A lamentable thirst for useful knowledge
prompted him to visit foreign countries,
particularly Italy,
so long the seat of Liberty,
(ever dear to him!)
so justly famous
for the great men it produced,
And still distinguished for the finer
Arts.
In his return home,
after about a year's absence from his
native country,
the Supreme Disposer of all events
permitted this valuable person
to lose his life in a storm
on the cost of Holland, the — of Sep-
tember, 1751.
Blame not, reader, but adore
that awful Providence,
which is ever directed
by unerring wisdom
and infinite goodness.
Was he thy friend?
Yet grieve not.
The friendly wave,
which wrapt him up from pain and
sorrow,
washed his soul from earth to heaven,
where his desire of knowledge
will be fully satisfied,
and his virtues
abundantly rewarded.

A complete specimen of that redundancy of thoughts and words which are the truest characteristicks of all the Doctor's compositions. The discerning reader will pronounce, that the repetition of characters which David filled, the episodes on Italy and on Providence, and the overdrawn affirmation respecting his being "rapt" from earth to heaven by a wave, are the exceptionable parts of this composition. The pert pulpit-orators of the present day are unequal apes of Dr. James F. — The following is a list of the Doctor's works: "The Eloquence of the Pulpit, an Ordination Sermon; to which is added a Charge. 1752." Acts xviii. 24. "An Essay on the Action proper for the Pulpit." Both these are printed at the end of "Theodorus, a Dialogue concerning the Art of Preaching, by Mr. D. Fordyce" 3d ed. 1755. "The Methods of promoting Edification by public Institutions, an Ordination Sermon; with a Charge delivered at the Ordination of Mr. John Gibson, Minister of St. Ninians. 1755." 1. Cor. xiv. 26. "The Temple of Virtue, a Dream, 1757." 2d edition, much altered, 1755. "A Funeral Sermon, 1757." Eccl. xi. 1. "The Folly, Infamy, and Misery, of unlawful Pleasure, a Sermon before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. 1760." Prov. vi. 6, 7. Inserted in the Scotch Preacher, I. 313. "A Sermon occasioned by the Death of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Lawrence, Oct. 1, 1760, with an Address at his Interment. 1762." Rev. xiv. 6. "Sermons to young Women, 1766." 6 vols. "The Character and Conduct of the Female Sex, and the Advantage to be derived by young Men by the Society of virtuous Woman. A Discourse, in Three Parts, from Johon xi. 5, delivered in Monkwell-street Chapel, Jan. 1, 1766." "Addresses to young Men, 1777." 2 vols. "The delusive and persecuting Spirit of Popery, a Fast Sermon on Feb. 10, 1771." "Charge delivered in Monkwell-street at the Ordination of the Rev. James Lindley, 1783." Printed with the Sermon preached by Dr. Hunter on that occasion. "Address to the Deity, 1785." "Poems, 1786." In our present volume, p. 569, is an original eulogium by him, warm from the heart, "on the Humane Society;" and, in our last Number, p. 948, his death is beautifully lamented by a lady of the first-rate poetical merit.