Zanoni, a timeless Rosicrucian brother, possesses occult powers and knows the secret of eternal life. However, he cannot fall in love without losing his power of immortality; but he does fall in love with Viola Pisani, a promising young opera singer from Naples, the daughter of Pisani, a misunderstood Italian violinist. An English gentleman named Glyndon loves Viola as well, but is indecisive about proposing marriage, and then renounces his love to pursue occult study. The story develops in the days of the French Revolution in 1789. Zanoni has lived since the Chaldean civilization. His master Mejnor warns him against a love affair but Zanoni does not heed.