Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote’s comic play The Nabob, now obscure, is the first linkage of picnic with the euphemism “nick-nack.” He used in the sense of dining en piquenique, which suggests familiarity. The alliterative corruption is meant to be humorous for those...
Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse (1918)

Potter borrowed freely from Aesop, Horace, and many other tellers of the “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse,” including  Mary Belson Elliott’s The Mice and Their Pic Nic.  “The dinner was of eight courses; not much of anything, but truly...
Georges Touchard-Lafoss’s Chroniques de l’Oeil-de-boeuf (1776)

Georges Touchard-Lafoss’s Chroniques de l’Oeil-de-boeuf (1776)

Touchard-Lafosse’s pseudonym Oeil-de-boeuf is an allusion to Louis XIV’s Salon de L’Oeil-de-Boeuf, the antechamber to his bedroom dominated by a circular window, oeil-de-boeuf, above the door. As a metaphor, it suggests that he’s a gossip, often relating sexually...
Mary Belson Elliott ‘s  Mice and Their Pic Nic

Mary Belson Elliott ‘s Mice and Their Pic Nic

All but forgotten except by picnic scholars like me, Elliott’s children’s book The Mice and Their Pic Nic is remembered as the second published reference to a picnic in English. It appeared in 1806, three years after The Happy Courtship, Marriage, and Pic Nic Dinner...
Horace’s “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse”

Horace’s “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse”

Horace’s delights in a rustic country dinner, rusticus cenae, the custom of which is linked to the Greek custom of eranos, a dinner to which each guest contributes something. It was an old custom in Horace’s time, and soon faded. It was apparently unknown to the...