James Fordyce- a Scottish clergyman- wrote his Sermons To Young Women in 1766 and it swiftly became a bestseller. No doubt a very worthy compilation, we can see by Jane Austen's tongue-in-cheek treatment of it in her 1813 book that it would be well known to her contemporary audience. Some of the sermon topics include:
- On the importance of the female sex, especially the younger part.
- On modesty of apparel
- On female reserve
- On female virtue
- On female virtue, friendship and conversation
- On female virtue with domestic and elegant accomplishment
- On female meekness
Mary:“That loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable-- that one false step involves her in endless ruin-- that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful-- and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behavior towards the undeserving of the opposite sex."
Fordyce: "Remember how tender a thing a woman's reputation is, how hard to preserve, and when lost how impossible to recover; how frail many, and how dangerous most, of the gifts you have received; what misery and what shame have been often occasioned by abusing them! Suffer me again to put you on your guard."