The 1820 Volume
' LAMIA, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems' was published in the first week of July at seven and sixpence. Taylor seems at first to have thought of publishing the book in five separate pamphlets at three shillings each, 'the whole in 1 Vol. 8vo., price 12 & 6.' There is a pencil note to this effect on the back of the ' Lamia' manuscript.
Taylor was enthusiastic about the book. He wrote: 'If it does not sell well, I think nothing will ever sell well again. I am sure of this, that for Poetic Genius there is not his equal living, and I would compare him against anyone with either Milton or Shakespeare for Beauties.' Hessey was equally pleased and said that he thought no single volume of poems had ever, taken as a whole, given him more real delight. One hundred and sixty copies were subscribed for and Hessey reported with gratification to Taylor who was at Bath, on the day of publication a copy of Endymion was sold.
The book went fairly well: it had excellent reviews and probably would have sold much better if it had not appeared at an unfortunate time. Keats's ill luck held. The Town was gone mad over the attempt of George IV to pass 'The Bill of Pains and Penalties' through Parliament in order to rid himself of his wife, Princess Caroline, who was now in London claiming her rights as Queen. The attempt to prove adultery, supported by discreditable witnesses, was so unpopular that the Bill was thrown out, but not until November 10th. The sea of pamphlets, lampoons and caricatures rose higher. Every detail of the unsavoury process was eagerly scanned by the public, who had little thought for buying or reading printed matter on any other subject.
The bookselling trade suffered badly. Publicity gained by the good reviews was lost to Keats. Sales fell off and as late as March, 1822, not five hundred copies of Lamia had been sold.
Feeling ran almost as high in Scotland. In Edinburgh the mob raged about the city breaking the windows of the citizens who would not illuminate with candles for 'the Queen.' This was a pretty habit of Georgian crowds. But one private individual in East Lothian read Lamia and admired it so much that he wrote begging Keats to come and make a long stay with him, promising him quiet in which to work, 'soothing affection' and 'a select and extensive' library of books.
This generous soul was John Aitken, afterwards editor of Constable'sMiscellany