Samuel Pepys’ “frolique” is our picnic was a favorite way for him to spend an afternoon with friends idling. We know this from his Diary, a frank glimpse of his personal and professional lives, begun when he was thirty-seven and continued for the next decade.

Among his entertainments, two “froliques” are memorable. One is with his wife Elisabeth along a stretch of the Thames below London Bridge on Sunday, June 26, 1664. “So my wife dressed herself,” Pepys says, “and, with good victuals and drink, we took boat presently and the tide with us got down, but it was night, and the tide spent by the time we got to Gravesend; so there we stopped . . . to get some cherries [there was a Cherry Garden there].” The party returned home when it began to thunder.

Another “frolique” began with his mistress Mrs. Martin, who he visited after church service. Then, he and other companions boated to Richmond, where they stopped to walk at the manor house Barne Elmes. “I walked the length of the [Barne] Elmes,” Pepys writes, “and with great pleasure, saw some gallant ladies and people come with their bottles, and basket, and chairs, and form [behave with customary etiquette], to sup under the trees, by the waterside, which was mighty pleasant.” Sunday, May 26, 1667, was a grand day, and Pepys was a very happy man.

*Pepys’ Diary was written in code and not translated or published until 1825. Though Parisians used pique-nique to designate an indoor meal, Pepys neither knew of the custom, nor would he have used it to describe his alfresco outings.

Featured Image: Pepys commissioned Hendrick Danckerts to paint several English landscapes, including A View of Greenwich, the Queens House from the South-East (1670c.). Some suggest that Danckerts’ commemorated Pepys and his wife Elizabeth, who died 16 March 1669. London: National Maritime Museum

See; The Diary of Samuel Pepys: A New and Complete Transcription.  Edited by Robert Latham and William C. Matthews and William A. Armstrong. London: HarperCollins, 2000.