Edwin Muir Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Edwin Muir grew up in the remote Orkney Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland, where he was the youngest child of James Muir and Elizabeth Muir. His father was a tenant farmer, and the family survived under straitened circumstances. In 1901, when Muir was fourteen, the family moved to highly industrialized Glasgow; this marked the end of his formal education and the beginning of a string of menial jobs and personal family misfortunes, including the deaths of Muir’s parents and two of his older brothers.

Muir educated himself primarily through reading and began to produce essays and reviews for the weekly journal New Age under the mentorship of A. R. Orage. Although raised in a religious Calvinist tradition, in these early years, Muir was influenced by his reading of Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud. Later in his life, he experienced a revival of interest in traditional Christian ideas, but his writing remained influenced by the reading of his youth.

In 1919, Muir married Willa Anderson, who would become his lifelong partner. As a scholar and teacher of Germanic studies, she worked with him on the translations of Kafka, Hermann Broch, Gerhart Hauptmann, and Lion Feuchtwanger that brought the work of these writers to the attention of the English-speaking world. These translations were begun while the Muirs were living in Prague and traveling in Europe in the 1920’s. Although Muir published several novels...

(The entire section is 454 words.)