(Notes by Alastair Wilson)
'The length of her novel had been her first question. It must be in three volumes, and each volume must have three hundred pages'.This refers to Lady Carbury, one of the principal characters, who is an author. In fact, The Way We Live Now itself, after being serialised in monthly parts, was published in two volumes (though it might well have been three – it had over 300,000 words and 100 chapters).
Cecily “I believe that Memory is responsible for nearly all the three volume novels that Mudie sends us”.And again, in Act III:
Miss Prism “Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel , Cecily”:
Miss Prism “It contained the manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality”.Since the play was not performed until about a year after Kipling’s poem was first published, Wilde may have read Kipling’s verse. However that may be, taking in conjunction Kipling’s heading, his verse, and the Wilde quotes, it is clear that the three volume novel had become something of a source of literary derision, in a similar way to the treatment of Mills and Boon romances today.
'Yet I dreamed for many years of building a veritable three-decker out of chosen and long-stored timber—teak, green-heart, and ten-year-old oak knees—each curve melting deliciously into the next that the sea might nowhere meet resistance or weakness; the whole suggesting motion even when, her great sails for the moment furled, she lay in some needed haven—a vessel ballasted on ingots of pure research and knowledge, roomy, fitted with delicate cabinet-work below-decks, painted, carved, gilt and wreathed the length of her, from her blazing stern-galleries outlined by bronzy palm-trunks, to her rampant figure-head—an East Indiaman worthy to lie alongside The Cloister and the Hearth.'
We were driven South by a storm, and for three days and three nights he took the stern-oar, and threddled the longship through the sea. When it rose beyond measure he brake a pot of whale’s oil upon the water, which wonderfully smoothed it, and in that anointed patch he turned her head to the wind and threw out oars at the end of a rope...[Line 4] one knot one nautical mile, as measured on the log-line. Modern usage has ‘knot’ as meaning a speed: one nautical mile per hour. In earlier usage it was used purely as a distance.