Wilhelm Müller wrote and published "Winterreise" in multiple steps.
The first twelve poems, which became the twelve songs in Part I in Schubert's song cycle,
"Winterreise," was published in "Urania" by the publisher, Brockhaus in 1821. The question is
what motivated him to write this cycle of poems and whether or not these poems are autobiographical.
His earlier cycle of poems was "Die schöne Müllerin" in which he wrote about the love and the
failure of a young miller. While he never had a personal experience of a miller, Wilhelm Müller grew up
in a town by two rivers, the Mulde and the Elbe. He must have observed and heard about the water mills.
In the case of "Winterreise", we never learned about the profession of a young man who failed to retain
his love. One possibility is that it could be autobiographical, and he chose to portray an anonymous lover
who failed to retain his love. When one studies his biography through his letters and diaries which were published
after his son's death, we find that there was a love experience by Müller which he mentioned in his diary.
Since his son forbade the publication of his dairies, there must be some grounds for the secrecy. According to his diary,
Müller had a love in Brussels where he went as a soldier in the war against Napoleon. The name of his love, mentioned in
his diary on October 15, 1815 was Therese, and Müller mentiond this in conjunction with his kissing a lock of her hair.
There is an additional account of his love in Brussels, but it is one of his letters to his wife, which has not been published
as of present.
Wilhelm Müller, Werke Tagebücher, Briefe published by Maria-Verena Leistner, 5 Bde, Berlin, 1994.
Erika von Borries, "Wilhelm Müller, Der Dichter der "Winterreise": Eine Biographie" C.H. Beck, ISBN 978 3 406 56212 9
Letzte Aktualisierung: 06.12.2016