Mrs Peach

The Amiable Mrs Peach

‘we ride or walk every day, visit a good deal, & spend our time very agreeably’

As the daughter of one clergyman and wife of another, Betsy Reading (later Leathes, then Peach) (1748–1815) knew everyone from dukes to the destitute, but she was happiest among the gentry and lower aristocracy, and it was to them that she wrote her lively letters. Her provincial life of card parties, tea parties and balls was that of a Jane Austen heroine, and she too was preoccupied with marriage and money. She also showed pride and prejudice, sense and sensibility.  Betsy and her children were to experience three elopements, some scandalous court cases and endless money worries. Sometimes frivolous on the surface, in private she had to contend with the difficult behaviour of her parents, husbands and children, with their deaths, and with her own uncertain mental and physical health. Her family struggled to keep up their social position in a brutally unequal society, and the backdrop to much of her adult life was the Napoleonic wars, when England remained in a state of high tension.

Betsy’s surviving diaries and correspondence provide the core of Celia Miller’s spirited account of a life lived to the full, but the author also sets the events in a broader social and political context. From Woodstock in Oxfordshire, to Norfolk and Kent (and back to Norfolk), Betsy travelled, chatted, and always, always wrote. From those letters and diaries an enthralling picture emerges of a sometimes exasperating but always likeable woman, and of the relatives and friends who made up the patchwork of her life.

The illustrations include prints and photos of places Betsy knew, and approx. 20 line drawings by Jean M. Smith, prepared especially for the book.


Reviewers said:

There is much here for historians of family life. ... The author's style is a model of elegance and clarity, and the work is highly readable – Margaret Bird, British Association for Local History


A valuable and informative narrative history ... blending scandal and gentility in equal measure. – Trevor Heaton, Eastern Daily Press


Celia Miller has mined deeply into the archives of the Norfolk Records office to make use of a mass of letters revealing this intelligent, pragmatic and fun-loving woman’s life. Extracts of these, added to rich detail from a collection of diaries which had survived the ravages of flood water and insects to be transcribed with the aid of a magnifying glass, provide a colourful picture of country life in the late 18th century.– Elizabeth Martyn, Norwich Society Newsletter


A sparkling account of a very likeable woman whose personality leaps off the page – Charlotte Ridings, NAHRG News


Readers of Parson Woodforde's diary will find a great deal of interest in this most readable biography ... The detailed narrative has been skilfully constructed ... Dr Miller ... present[s] as memorable an account of clerical life as found in the pages of Woodforde or of Jane Austen - Richard Wilson, Journal of the Paston Woodforde Society


A peach of a biography ... tells [a] fascinating story - Norfolk Magazine


More about the author Celia Miller .

Some sample pages from the book:

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ISBN 978-0-9933069-0-7
Publication June 2016.
240 pages, 234 x 156 mm, including genealogical table and many illustrations, some in colour.
Notes, bibliography and index.


Read a review from the Eastern Daily Press:

EDP review