The principal vices of the nobles under the reign of Louis XVI. were their inordinate love of gaming, of horse-racing, of mistresses, and the destructive profusion into which these passions led them. The reigning vices of the men became also the vices of the women. Ladies of rank, or those who wished to be considered as such, gamed, squandered their fortunes and involved themselves in debt, like the men. They had lovers and expensive gewgaws, as the men had their mistresses and horses. They also murdered their time with the same frivolous amusements and dissipations [sic] as the men.
Happy marriages and conjugal fidelity became more rare than ever. Public illicit connections with other men that those whose name they bore, were the prevailing fashion, and therefore ceased to give any offense. People married in compliance with the will of their parents, or for other motives of convenience, that, after the nuptial knot was tied, they might enter into a still closer private union with the objects of their hearts.
These connections assumed the exact character of matrimonial unions, and the perpetual change of lovers and mistresses, which was formerly so much in vogue, disappeared almost entirely. With married women, none of their male acquaintances were more rarely seen than with their husbands, and with none did they less frequently meet in society. The lover generally defrayed the expenses of the toilet and other contingent expenses of his mistress. But if he was too poor, or not sufficiently liberal, to satisfy the continual demands of fashion and the love of display, the lady applied to the person whose name she bore; and it was only when she had accounts to settle with milliners, jewelers, and other dealers in fashionable wares, or when her purse required to be replenished after losses at gaming, that she bestowed a civil look or word upon her nominal husband.
One of the principal causes of the corruption of morals in the capital of France had long been the different theaters, and especially the grand opera. The ministers of Louis XVI., in compliance with the wishes of that virtuous sovereign endeavored to correct the scandalous abuses generated in this school of voluptuousness and vice, and to restrain the loose conduct of the actors and actresses by some kind of discipline. But all these attempts at the reformation of the opera were without the smallest permanent effect. The opera remained, or became even in a higher degree than it had been before, a school of debauchery, which contained none but the most profligate characters, and which received no additions but such as were furnished by the licentiousness of a corrupted capital. It was, and remained, the receptacle of prostitution, adultery, and every kind of gross sensuality. Vices and enormities of every description, which were safe nowhere else, found refuge in the bosom of the grand opera.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.