This essay argues that the Victorian novel recast the cognitive deficiencies associated with the mass as necessary traits for inhabiting a statistically rendered public sphere. In order to attribute personhood to an influx of potentially asocial bodies that fell short of the cognitive standards of liberal citizenship, statistical sciences around the time of the 1867 Reform Act reversed the usual priority given to the individual over the collective, redefining the self as a compilation of demographic and social information. When Anthony Trollope's 1867 Phineas Finn performs this constitution of character through collectivity, it disrupts both the interiorized mental procedures of Millian liberalism and our own critical practice of reading characters as metaphysically more than the cultural information of which they are composed. By unleashing statistical sciences into the dimension of character, Trollope supplants older models of social cohesion built around autonomous individuals who form collectives through sympathy and provides a matrix for transforming Enlightenment assumptions about what characters are and how to read them. The impulsivity and mental discontinuity associated with newly enfranchised Irish populations—the very modes of thought and feeling Enlightenment theories of sociality had classified as disruptive to sympathetic economy—prove key to internalizing and embodying statistical abstractions. The unruly affective signature of the masses long designated as liberalism's human surplus is thus rendered integral to the structure of opinion and decision.

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