Written by Nina RG
(9/19/2009 9:36 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, #1: Speaking volumes, penned by Anselm
I believe many 19th century novels had a three-volume format but whether this was just "the normal way to do it" or if the publishers required it I don't know.
But it seems to me that Jane Austen deliberately used the three-volume format to structure her novels. Volume I and II of Mansfield Park end in cliffhangers (Fanny being in "danger"), and in P&P the different volumes take place in different settings (volume I: Longbourn and Netherfield, volume II: Hunsford and volume III: Pemberley and Longbourn). And as you say, the tone in Ch. 22 is very different from the tone in volume II Ch. 1. Possibly the "volume-structure" was the skeleton miss Austen used to build her novels on.
Again, I don't know who first decided that the volume-structure was the way to go, the authors or the publishers. But I believe Jane Austen chose it deliberately - nothing she does is accidental:D