Many young English gentlemen from the 17th c. onward completed their formal education with a Grand Tour. An extended journey across the Continent usually made in the company of a tutor, the Tour was supposed to give that extra polish to a young man through the appreciation of art and ancient architecture, and by exposure to the more refined company to be found in France and Italy. In theory, anyway. For a good many of these young gentlemen, the beauty to be viewed was often in the opera house chorus, and the company wasn't very refined. But oh, the tales that must have been told when they returned home!
Here is one such story from Paris in 1711, gleefully detailed in a letter that probably wasn't shared with young Mr. Dixon's mother:
"I cannot omit setting down here an adventure that happened to Mr. [Thomas] Dixon at the Comte de Douglass assemblee. After he had played at cards some time with Madame de Polignac, a very handsome lady, she profered to set him at home in her coach: which he very willingly accepted of. This young gentleman (who was a man of pleasure) finding himself alone with a fine young lady, could not forbear putting his hand where some women would not let him. After he had pleased himself thus for some time and she had bore it with a great deal of patience, she told him (in a pleasant manner) that since he had been so very free with her, she could not forbear being familiar with him. Upon which she handled his arms, and finding them not fit for present service, she beat him very heartily. He said all he could for himself, telling her that he had been upon hard duty for some time in the Wars of Venus, and if she would give him but one day to recruit on, he would behave himself like a man: she minded not his excuses but turned him out of the coach, and gave him this advice –– 'Never to attack a young handsome lady as she was when his ammunition was spent.'"
Excerpt from a letter by George Carpenter, Paris, 1717; quoted in The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century by Jeremy Black
Above: The Lady's Last Stake by William Hogarth, 1758, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo