Why would Hawthorne and Eliot grant their fallen women an anachronistic right to silence that could only worsen their punishment? Why did Bronte and Gaskell find gossip such a useful source of information when lawyers excluded it as hearsay? How did Trollope's work as an editor influence his preoccupation throughout his novels with libel? Drawing on a range of primary sources including novels, Victorian periodical literature, legislative debate, case law, and legal treatise, Cathrine O. Frank traces the ways conventions of literary characterisation mingled with character-centred legal developments to produce a jurisprudential theory of character that extends beyond the legal profession. She explores how key categories and representational strategies for imagining individual personhood also defined communities and mediated relations within them, in life and in fiction.