Wilhelm Müller was born at Dessau, the son of a tailor. He was educated at the gymnasium of his native town and at the University of Berlin, where he devoted himself to philological and historical studies. In 1813-1814 he took part, as a volunteer in the Prussian army, in the national rising against Napoleon. He participated in the battles of Lützen, Bautzen, Hanau and Kulm. In 1814 he returned to his studies at Berlin. From 1817 to 1819, he visited southern Germany and Italy, and in 1820 published his impressions of the latter in Rom, Römer und Römerinnen. In 1819, he was appointed teacher of classics in the Gelehrtenschule at Dessau, and in 1820 librarian to the ducal library. He remained there the rest of his life, dying of a heart attack aged only 32.
Müller's earliest lyrics are contained in a volume of poems, Bundesbluten, by several friends, which was published in 1816. That same year he also published Blumenlese aus den Minnesängern (Flowers harvested from the minnesingers). His literary reputation was made by the Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (2 vols., 1821–1824), and the Lieder der Griechen (1821–1824). The latter collection was Germany's chief tribute of sympathy to the Greeks in their struggle against the Turkish yoke, a theme which inspired many poets of the time. Two volumes of Neugriechische Volkslieder, and Lyrische Reisen und epigrammatische Spaziergänge, followed in 1825 and 1827. Many of his poems imitate the German Volkslied.
Müller also wrote a book on the Homerische Vorschule (1824; 2nd. ed., 1836), translated Marlowe's Faustus, and edited a Bibliothek der Dichtungen des 17. Jahrhunderts (1825–1827; 10 vols.), a collection of lyric poems.
Müller's Vermischte Schriften (Miscellaneous writings) were edited with a biography by Gustav Schwab (3 vols., 1830). Wilhelm Müller's Gedichte were collected in 1837 (4th ed., 1858), and also edited by his son, Friedrich Max Müller (1868). There are also numerous more recent editions, notably one in Reclam's Universalbibliothek (1894), and a critical edition by J. T. Hatfield (1906).
Müller excelled in popular and political songs that attracted great composers, notably Franz Schubert, and also influenced Heinrich Heine's lyric development. Schubert's two song cycles, Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, are based on collections by Müller.
Andres Neuman wrote a novel, El viajero del siglo (Traveller of the Century, 2009), inspired by the poems of Winter Journey (Wanderlieder von Wilhelm Müller. Die Winterreise. In 12 Liedern), giving life to several of its characters. Neuman had previously translated Müller's Winter Journey poems to the Spanish language.
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "vb=1". Encyclopedia Americana.
- "Müller, Wilhelm". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "Müller, Wilhelm". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
-  It won the prestigious Alfaguara Award.
- Müller, Wilhelm: Viaje de invierno. Translated by Andres Neuman. Barcelona: Acantilado, 2003.
- Andreas Dorschel: 'Wilhelm Müllers Die Winterreise und die Erlösungsversprechen der Romantik', in: The German Quarterly LXVI (1993), nr. 4, pp. 467–476.
- Hako, B., Wilhelm Müller, Leben und Dichten (Berlin, 1908)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Müller, Wilhelm". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press This work in turn cites:
- F. Max Müller (1885), "Müller, Wilhelm", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German) 22, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 683–694
- O. Franck, Zur Biographie des Dichters W. Müller (Mittellungen des Vereins für anhaltische Geschichte, 1887)
- J. T. Hatfield, W. Müllers unveröffentlichtes Tagebuch und seine ungedruckten Briefe (W. Müller's unpublished diary and letters, Deutsche Rundschau, 1902).