In this simple tale, the novel´s hero is the talented heir to a notable family in Lisbon. He aspires to serve his fellow man in his chosen profession of medicine, in the arts, and in politics. But he enters a society affected by powerful international influences - French intellectual developments, English trading practices - that trouble and frustrate him. In the end he is reduced to a kind of spiritual helplessness and his good intentions are reduced to dilettantism. His passionate love affair begins to suffer a devastating constraint.