Of Mortal Love contains, for many critics and readers, the essence of all that is best in Gerhardie's writing, and Michael Holroyd, in his 'Preface', voices the suspicion that it is the author's own favourite among his books.
First published in 1936, Of Mortal Love is a simple love story, in the author's own words 'containing fresh love-lore and treating of the succeeding stages of transmutation of love erotic into love imaginative; of love entrancing into love unselfish; of love tender into love transfigured'. It is the story of Dinah, who was not born to live alone, and of Walter, Jim and Eric who loved, but proved unequal to her love. According to C. P. Snow, it is 'one of the most wonderful books of a generation'.
William Alexander Gerhardie was born in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1895. As a young man he went to London and, when the First World War broke out, joined the army. He was first sent to Russia and later travelled the world before beginning to write. Futility (1922), his first novel, was sponsored by Katherine Mansfield, and other notable works of his include The Polyglots (1925) and Of Mortal Love (1936). Gerhardie's writing was acclaimed as an influence on many of his peers, including Anthony Powell, H. G. Wells, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Olivia Manning. He died in London in 1977.