Fordyce, David

, professor of philosophy in the Marischal college, Aberdeen, and author of several valuable works, was born in that city, in 1711, probably in March, as we find he was baptized on April 1. His father was an eminent merchant, who had a family of twenty children by his wife, a sister to Dr. Thomas Blackwell, of whom we have already given an account. This, their second son, after being educated at the grammar school of his native city, was entered of Marischal college in 1724, where he went through a course of philosophy under professor Daniel Garden, and of mathematics under Mr. John | Stewart. He took his degree of M. A. in 1728, when he was but little more than seventeen years old. Being intended for the church, his next application was to the study of divinity, under the professor of that branch, Mr. James Chalmers, a man of great learning and piety, whom the editor of this Dictionary is proud to record as his grandfather. Mr. Fordyce studied divinity with great ardour, the utmost of his ambition being ordination in a church that affords her sons but a moderate emolument. Circumstances with which we are unacquainted, appear to have prevented his full intention, as he never became a settled minister in the establishment of his native country. He was admitted, however, to what may be termed the first degree of orders in the church of Scotland, that is, he was licensed to preach, and continued to preach occasionally for some time. He is said, indeed, to have been once domestic chaplain to John Hopkins, esq. of Bretons, near Rumford, in Essex, who had a regular service every Sunday in the chapel of the house; but there is reason to think he did not continue long in this situation, and that he returned home, as in Sept. 1742 he was appointed one of the professors of philosophy in the Marischal college. The duties of the philosophic professorship at that time included natural history, chronology, Greek and Roman antiquities, mechanics, optics, and astronomy, which were taught during three sessions, or years, to the same pupils. This system is now altered, but that My. Fordyce was well qualified for the above-mentioned laborious task was universally acknowledged.

When Dodsley formed the design of that useful book “The Preceptor, 11 Mr. Fordyce wa one of the ingenious men of whose assistance he availed himself, and who wrote the ninth division of the work, on moral philosophy, which attracted so much attention, that a separate publication was soon called for, and appeared in 1754 under the title of” The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 17 and has gone through various editions. It is undoubtedly one of the best compendiums of ethics that had then appeared, being both elegant and entertaining, as well as instructive. Previously to this, however, Mr. Fordyce had attracted some notice as an author, though without his name, in “Dialogues concerning Education,” the first volume of which was published in 1745, and the second in 1748. It is a work of very considerable merit, but somewhat tinged with | the fopperies of the school of Shaftesbury, although entirely free from its more injurious notions. He Was engaged in other literary designs, and afforded the promise of rising to great eminence in the world, when he was cut off by a premature death. In 1750 he made a tour through France, Italy, and other countries, with a particular view to visit Rome, and was returning home in 1751, when he unhappily lost his life, in the forty-first year of his age, by a storm on the coast of Holland.

Early in 1752 was published, from a finished manuscript of our author, “Theodorus: a Dialogue concerning the art of Preaching,” 12mo, which is a work of considerable utility to young divines, and has been repeatedly printed along with his brother Dr. James Fordyce’s sermon on “The Eloquence of the Pulpit.” Mr. David Fordyce’s last production was left by him in an unfinished state, but not so incomplete as to be unworthy of publication. It was entitled “The Temple of Virtue, a Dream,” and was given to the world in 1757, by his brother James, who added to the descriptive part of the temple twelve characters that had a claim to a place in it, in the drawing of which several living characters were intended, particularly the late earl of Chatham. Mr. Fordyce left several other brothers, of whom the youngest, Alexander, attained an unhappy celebrity by his ruinous speculations as a banker, but James and William deserve some notice on a better account. 1


Biog. Brit. Vol. VI. Part I. unpublished.