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 national rising against Napoleon. In 1817 he visited Italy, and in 1820 published his impressions in Rom, Romer und Romerinnen. In 1818 he was appointed teacher of classics in the Dessau school, and in 1820 librarian to the ducal library.
Müller's earliest lyrics are contained in a volume of poems, Bundesbluten, by several friends, which was published in 1816. His literary reputation was made by the Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (2vols., 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. 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.). His poetic genius was kindred to that of the composer Schubert, who set many of his lyrics to music.
Wilhelm Müller's Gedichte were first collected in 7837 (4th ed., 7858); edited by his son, Friedrich Max Müller (1868); there are also numerous more recent editions, notably one in Reclam's Universalbibliothek (1894); critical edition by JT Hatfield (7906). Müller's Vermischte Schriften were edited with a biography by G Schwab (3 vols., 1830). See F Max Müller's article in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie; O Franck, "Zur Biographie des Dichters W. Müller" (Mittellungen des Vereins fur anhaltische Geschichte, 1887); JT Hatfield, "W. Müllers unveröffentlichtes Tagebuch und seine ungedruckten Briefe" (Deutsche Rundschau, 1902).